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Miriam on Drilon accusation vs Villar: ' PDF Print E-mail
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Friday, 19 February 2010 00:25
Miriam on Drilon accusation vs Villar: 'Highly suspicious' AMITA O. LEGASPI, GMANews.TV 02/19/2010 | 11:26 AM More Share6 LA PAZ, Iloilo - Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago has described last week's accusations of former Senator Franklin Drilon against Nacionalista Party standard bearer Manuel Villar Jr. on the Savannah Subdivision as "highly suspicious." Nacionalista Party standard bearer Sen. Manny Villar allegedly facilitated the illedgal onversion of 12.7 hectares of rice land into this private subdivision in Iloilo City. Johanna Camille SisanteIn a chance interview with reporters here Thursday night, Santiago, who is seeking reelection in the May elections, said: "I find it very suspicious that the charges against Manny Villar in connection with the Savannah Subdivision here in Iloilo should be raised only when he is now running for president of the country." Santiago, who hails from Iloilo, said that if the conversion of the land was truly irregular, then it should have been reported earlier and the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) enforcement officials should have already looked into this and brought the matter to court. "The fact that if there is an irregularity it was not at all investigated or prosecuted, but being revived just because he (Villar) is about to place himself in the lead of the surveys, it’s very highly suspicious," said Santiago, a former judge and agrarian reform chief during the Aquino administration. "It should have been raised at the proper moment. In law, failure to act on your right or your privilege is already taken as a manifestation of consent. So they consented, in other words, they were quiet when they should have been making noises about investigations or even prosecutions," she added. Illegal conversion? Last week, Drilon claimed Villar facilitated the illegal conversion of prime rice lands in an Iloilo town to build a subdivision for his real estate development company Camella Homes. [See: LP: Villar converted rice lands for Iloilo subdivision] At the same time, Drilon, who is seeking to return to the Senate in the May polls, said Villar had a road built along Jibao-an in Pavia town, which will pass in front of Savannah subdivision in Brgy. Polo Maestra Vita in Oton town. The Camella Homes website features Savannah subdivisions in Iloilo as one of its properties. But in defending Villar, Santiago said that it was not completely prohibited to convert agricultural lands to other uses such as commercial, industrial or other uses provided the procedure was followed. "And Mr. Villar claims that he followed the procedure. If that is the case then there is no illegality about it because the law itself allows it," Santiago said. "Remember, as a former agrarian secretary, I was very, very aggressive against land conversion because I thought it sabotaged the mission of agrarian reform. But I have to admit there are certain exemptions when the law itself makes this allowances. So unless they can prove that procedures at that time promulgated by the DAR was not followed then there is nothing to question about the legality of the subdivision in Iloilo," she said. Visit to Savannah On Thursday, Villar visited Savannah Subdivision located in Jibao-An, Pavia together with reporters. Villar said the subdivision is not a new project. "Ten years na sila rito at nagsimula lang ito sa apat na ektarya. Lumaki nang lumaki, nakapagbigay ng mahigit na isang-libong tahanan sa mga taga-Iloilo (It's been here for 10 years and we started with four hectares. We were able to expand our land properties and provide houses to a thousand Ilonggos)." Savannah now occupies some 12 hectares of land. He reiterated that the transactions his company entered into were all aboveboard, denying accusations that his company built the road in front of Savannah. "70s pa 'yun. Alam naman nila, nagtataka ako kung bakit taga-rito naman sila, di nila alam yung road na yun. Hindi kino-construct yung road na yun. Hindi bago yun, lumang-luma na yung road na yun... matagal na yang kalye na yan, alam nila yan. Hindi kami ang gumawa niyan," he said. (Transactions for the subdivision were all done in the 70s. I don't know why my accusers do not know that I was not the one responsible for the construction of the road. That road has been there for a long time. The locals know it.) He added that it was the former local officials of Iloilo, among them Raul Gonzalez and Augusto Syjuco, who pushed for the construction of the Jibao-An national road. - RSJ, GMANews.TV
 
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