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Jan 21

The Long View: Power or money?

The Long View
Power or money?
By Manuel L. Quezon III
Philippine Daily Inquirer

First Posted 22:29:00 01/20/2010

MOST OBSERVERS IDENTIFY THE FIRST BATTLE in the 2010 campaign as having taken place in November 2008, when Manuel Villar Jr. resigned the Senate presidency rather than be deposed by his peers. Other possible presidential contenders had to deprive Villar of a position traditionally seen as a major stepping-stone to the presidency.

It was Edsa II that made Manuel Villar’s presidential dreams a realistic ambition. Whether or not he entered the House of Representatives in 1992 with more modest ambitions, in 1998 he was able to maneuver his election as speaker. Being fourth in the national hierarchy tends to foster dreams of rising even higher.

As speaker starting on July 27, 1998, Villar had power but lacked the kind of popular standing a third-termer with ambition needed, if he was to have a chance of moving further up the political totem pole. He had barely warmed the speakership when he got mired in controversy on Aug. 17, 1998 after Rep. Joker Arroyo, his rival, accused him of land-grabbing, using government connections to bail out his failed Capitol Bank, and other instances of bending or breaking the law for private gain. His SWS net satisfaction ratings started at +22 in September 1998; then ranged from +31 to +38 from November 1998 to June 1999, dipped to +31 in October 1999, sank to +16 in December 1999, and improved to +26 in March 2000.

Speakers may be powerful, but they tend to be fairly unpopular in national terms, in large part because they are perceived to be fixers primarily concerned with wheedling patronage out of the presidents whose favor makes possible their office. When he did a Pearl Harbor on President Joseph Estrada, Villar’s highest net satisfaction rating of +42 was already behind him (reached in July 2000 and marginally lower than the net satisfaction of +46 Jose de Venecia Jr. enjoyed at the height of his popularity in June 1997). He was deposed from the speakership but took advantage of every opportunity to keep a high profile during Edsa II in a campaign to keep himself in the public eye as was being conducted by Vice President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

In May 2001, his gamble paid off a double jackpot when he was elected to the Senate (coming in seventh) and became Senate president pro tempore, second banana in the upper house until 2003. In May 2007, he was re-elected, coming in fourth and was elected, at last, Senate president. He achieved his highest net satisfaction rating of +59 that December. Although by the time he had to relinquish the Senate presidency in November 2008 his net satisfaction was on the decline, losing nine points from +52 in June down to +43 in September (still the highest among top government officials), as Senate president he had always registered higher ratings than his predecessor, Franklin Drilon. His successor Juan Ponce Enrile has also never come close to Villar’s net satisfaction ratings.

But Villar deployed his resources not to recapture the Senate presidency but to hit the critical 25 percent threshold in the surveys by August 2009. Villar is unique in being the first self-made man to have a fortune large enough to give him the freedom to pursue the presidency however he wants, regardless of cost.

If his political rise has been marked by a combination of shrewd deal-making (clinching the speakership in 1998, the Senate presidency in 2007), high-stakes gambling (Pearl Harbor versus Estrada) and patient marshaling of resources (his presidential campaign is like the Soviet Red Army and its deep operations doctrine: simultaneous parallel attacks to induce a catastrophic defensive failure in the enemy), it’s because of his personal fortune.

Shortly before the 2007 elections, the Securities and Exchange Commission approved the share swap involving Vista Land & Lifescapes Inc. (his holding firm), and C&P Homes Inc. In mid-June 2007, the SEC approved Vista Land’s proposal for an initial public offering (IPO) of stocks (up to 2.12 billion new shares and 1.265 billion shares held by Fine Properties, Polar Property Holdings and Adelfa Properties, expected to raise 13.2 billion at a median price of 6.50 per share). In the end, the IPO raised P21 billion, starting with public listing on June 25, 2007 and follow-on offerings when “Chairman emeritus” Villar rang the bell to kick off the sale.

Two months later (on July 28), the SEC allowed Villar to sell Polar Property’s shares amounting to an 8.5 percent stake in Vista Land, exempting it from the 180-day (or five month) lock-up imposed on shareholders who own at least 10 percent of a company’s outstanding shares when it goes public. This freed up 722.61 million shares to dispose of in the market worth P4.696 billion at P6.50 a share precisely at a time when Villar’s presidential plans were already unabashedly in play.

By August last year, Forbes Magazine calculated Villar’s net worth at P25 billion ($530 million). Officially, his Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth reports a growth in net worth from P328.691 million in 1998 to P1.046 billion in 2008 (his net worth prior to Vista Land’s IPO was P915.6 million).

Fine Properties, Adelfa Properties, and Polar Property Holdings at present have 35 percent, 18.2 percent, and 5.35 percent stakes in Vista Land, but Mark Villar has declined to confirm whether his father retains a direct stake, telling reporters last August that his father had “no official position in the company.” On the other hand, Vista Land president and chief executive Benjamarie Therese commented that it would be “presumptuous” to divest ahead of the 2010 elections.

In many ways, the parallel story of Villar as businessman is even more interesting – and barely understood by the public – than his public career. Does seeking public office mean that money is merely a means to an end or is it public office that is merely a means to an end?

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  1. Dean Jorge Bocobo

    Manolo,
    I am amazed at your handling of Manny Villar’s impeachment of Joseph Estrada–the Zenith of his moral political career if you will. The analogy to Pearl Harbor is really OFF. There has been no more singular strike against Corruption in HIgh Places than the House impeachment of ERAP since 1987, in my opinion. It is a laurel on Manny Villar’s head to have transmitted forthwith for trial at the Senate, as the Constitution truly requires, a Bill of Impeachment against the President duly signed by the requisite number of House Members. You call it “Pearl Harbor”? Why? I note also that in the succeeding events that followed the House initiation of a Case of Impeachment, specifically in the Davide-Reyes-Arroyo coup d’etat, that Manny Villar did not in fact participate as a principal. As far as I can see, he done his job in 2000. Let’s give Due Credit where it is due!

  2. Felicity Tan

    While the Pearl Harbor analogy may be off, I think the point of Mr Quezon is clear.

    The C5 controversy is not an isolated incident. Sen Villar has had a pattern of graft, corruption and plunder: HE IS USING PUBLIC OFFICE FOR PERSONAL FINANCIAL GAIN. He has been doing so from the get-go.

    No one story or article or column can give justice to what the Filipinos have suffered financially for the senator’s misdeeds.

    Coupled with Macabenta’s column on Villar’s “luck” for being a Philippine politician that he could quite probably get away with it all (http://www.bworldonline.com/main/content.php?id=4828), these writers are sending us a powerful message.

    Enough is enough, we have to make a stand against these “politicians” who rape and pillage our country.

    Our loyalty must be to the country and its people, not personal interests. That goes for Arroyo, Villar, their megaphones, and to every Filipino.

  3. emantos

    He called it “Pearl Harbor” maybe because of its sneakiness, its surprise tactics and the fact that Estrada didn’t see it coming. Reading the article, I don’t think there was any insinuations that what Villar did to hasten Erap’s impeachment was wrong (I actually think that is one thing Villar did right) or even intention to belittle what he did that time, only that it used tactics used by our previous conquerors. I don’t see anything wrong with that.

  4. ramrod

    Pearl Harbor is really spot on! It was a bold , decisive, perfectly timed, surprise attack catching the target unprepared! Although I would have preferred Blitzkrieg…
    Then again, there was an element of deception and taking advantage…
    At first glance, it looked like it was Villar’s crowning glory, his heroic moment in Philippine history – but thats for ignorant people…It was a blow to democracy, a shameful, unconstitutional, removal of a president that had the people’s mandate, it was the dawn (again) of the dark ages in Philippine politics.
    If ever, we must see it as the depths of Villar would go to to achieve his objective, the man is despicable.
    …and because ignorant as we are, (and gullible), we allowed him to run for President instead of standing trial for corruption. Even the senate has been bought…if Villar wins, its because he spent a fortune, if he wins, it opnly means that the Philippines can be bought…

  5. thecusponline

    The success so far of Mr Villar the business tycoon turned politician follows the pattern set by PM Berlusconi of Italy, president-elect Pinera of Chile, and Mayor Bloomberg of New York.

    Whether it was principled altruism or individualistic self-interest that motivated Mr Villar back in 2000, there can be no doubt what is driving his actions in the Senate these days.

    One thing I will say about the conduct of the SEC, Ombudsman and Comelec though is that it is typical of the failure of government agencies to communicate with each other. Why wasn’t Villar questioned earlier with regards to his holdings? Do they need to wait for complaints to be filed before they act?

  6. ramrod

    One thing I will say about the conduct of the SEC, Ombudsman and Comelec though is that it is typical of the failure of government agencies to communicate with each other. Why wasn’t Villar questioned earlier with regards to his holdings? Do they need to wait for complaints to be filed before they act?
    ——————————–

    Yes.

  7. thecusponline

    ramrod, thanks, it was meant to be a rhetorical question though.

  8. SoP

    Dean Jorge Bocobo on Thu, 21st Jan 2010 9:42 am
    Manolo, I am amazed at your handling of Manny Villar’s impeachment of Joseph Estrada–the Zenith of his moral political career if you will. The analogy to Pearl Harbor is really OFF.

    emantos on Thu, 21st Jan 2010 10:33 am
    He called it “Pearl Harbor” maybe because of its sneakiness, its surprise tactics and the fact that Estrada didn’t see it coming.

    DEAN JORGE BOCOBO–>ANALYSIS FAIL!

  9. joril38

    Manolo,

    To answer your intruiging question: Yes, it’s very obvious that to majority of politicians (and now party-lists as well), public office is merely a means to an end. Indeed, it has become one.

    Ever since the local government code was enacted, equating public service to private employment complete with perks and bonuses (purportedly to discourage corruption?), public office has metamorphosed into an indispensable tool of desire to those craving for power and prestige at the people’s expense. It is now being looked upon as a “golden parachute” to most political practitioners.

    In the end, unless we revert to the good old days where politicians (and teachers) belonged to the same calling as priesthood, this despicable political system we are tolerating will surely blow up on our faces.

  10. Bernardo Loas

    This new insight is quite different from the image that the ‘supposed man-of-the-masses’ portray himself to be. It does appear that for Villar, public service has become a means to an end. I would also like to add my own set of questions to that of yours… What is Villar doing courting and even accepting into his fold perceived enemies of the state? By aligning himself with the likes of Ocampo and Masa, whom we all know are true-blooded CPP/NPA members, does this mean Villar already puts aside principles only to attain victory in the May polls? Does he not know the danger he is putting himself into?

  11. ramrod

    What is Villar doing courting and even accepting into his fold perceived enemies of the state? By aligning himself with the likes of Ocampo and Masa, whom we all know are true-blooded CPP/NPA members, does this mean Villar already puts aside principles only to attain victory in the May polls? Does he not know the danger he is putting himself into?
    ————————————————–

    Very disturbing indeed…if we really want someone “wicked” he’s the man, if we want a man of conviction – Erap na!

  12. Ka Ryan

    What is Villar doing courting and even accepting into his fold perceived enemies of the state? By aligning himself with the likes of Ocampo and Masa, whom we all know are true-blooded CPP/NPA members, does this mean Villar already puts aside principles only to attain victory in the May polls? Does he not know the danger he is putting himself into?

    You mean like the time when GLoria was supported by the CPP last 2001 and 2004? 😀 Smile it’s all a game…. besides he’ll just drop them after 2010.

  13. SoP

    I laugh at your ignorant, almost childlike, suppositions, Manolo and joril38. Is money a means to power or the other way around? Let me tell you, money (or power) is the means to more power (and money) is the means to more money (and power) is the means to more power (and money) and on and on it goes

    Joril38, so you think there are noble politicians before huh? I’m constantly reminded of the ludicrousness of this assumption by no other than Lee Kuan Yew, the man who turned the lives of poor Singaporeans around and transformed Singapore from backwater port to high tech hub. What happened to him? Well, he only turned over the mantle of power to his son and gave control of one of the world’s biggest sovereign fund to his son’s wife. Power and money perpetuates more power and money.

  14. nick

    “…money (or power) is the means to more power (and money) is the means to more money (and power) is the means to more power (and money) and on and on it goes…”

    SoP, that’s the means!

    Here’s the end: “I’m constantly reminded of the ludicrousness of this assumption by no other than Lee Kuan Yew, the man who turned the lives of poor Singaporeans around and transformed Singapore from backwater port to high tech hub.”

  15. baycas2

    Curt Siodmak said “A man of conviction is often more to be desired than a man of experience.”

    Among the top three, we could gather from the early campaign their personalities as regards corruption:

    We know who is a man of conviction,
    We know who is a man of experience, and
    We know who is a man of experience PLUS conviction!

  16. SoP

    Nick, it would have been a happy ending for Singaporeans if the $400 billion Singapore sovereign fund was handled by anyone except Lee Kuan Yew’s son and wife. Are you telling me that of all the 5 million Singaporeans out there, Lee Kuan Yew’s son and wife happen happen to be the most qualified to control this big pile of money and the state of Singapore? Or is just plain ole’ nepotism?

    As Filipinos, you may scoff at the notion of criticizing Lee when he made Singaporeans one of the most prosperous people on earth, but I tell you, I know a lot of Singaporeans who are not very happy at the power that the Lees have right now.

  17. nick

    Wow, baycas2, that’s hard, but let me guess.

    Among the top three:
    Noynoy has the least experience but no conviction.
    Villar has experience but has potential of conviction on C-5.
    Erap has experience PLUS conviction.

    Based on those, do we now know who to vote for?

  18. SoP

    And they too are not happy that husband and wife Lee have such big control of their money, which has taken a hit over some bad (some say dubious) investment decisions.

  19. The Equalizer Post

    What If :
    1) Erap Is Elected President Again In May 2010?
    2) Senator Manny Villar Returns To The Senate And Is Elected Senate President?
    3) Congresswoman Gloria Arroyo Is Elected New Speaker Of The House Of Representatives?

  20. baycas2

    !woW…

    Erap has experience in corruption plus conviction.
    Villar has experience in corruption.
    Noynoy has conviction against corruption!

    “A man of conviction is often more to be desired than a man of experience.”
    – Curt Siodmak

  21. thecusponline

    Marxists using their dialectic materialism would say that the pursuit of power by the ruling class is driven by their desire for greater wealth. This strict lense is what blind sided them in 1986, because they disregarded the possibility that a member of the landowning elites might be fuelled by altruistic motives.

    This is not the mould from where Villar has been cut though. Why would a man with more money than he can spend in several lifetimes want to be the leader of the land? It would be more than just a desire to expand his business empire (he can do that less conspicuously outside of politics). The desire to lead would have to spring from a supersized ego, the same ego that drove him to the heights of the corporate world.

    All this is fine, but I would question his ethics in running the country, just as I would his ethics in running his business. Which is not to say he would not be effective. Many people get ahead in life by breaking the rules. Will he do so to benefit the country?

    Perhaps, if that would suit his ego, to become the ’emancipator of the people’ for which he said there could be ‘no price-tag’ (but not without pocketing some for himself in the process, which the poor seem to expect anyway).

    The key question in all this is ‘will those questioning his methods get ahead of him in the end, before his efforts bear fruit, and lead to a stalemate in which nothing gets accomplished in the end?’ I think this is worth considering because it undermines his whole assertion that he could competently steer the ship of state.

  22. thecusponline

    I meant to say: but, “possibly”, not without pocketing some for himself in the process(?)…

  23. SoP

    In the end, whether the people are emancipated or not by wanna-be saviors, the winner is the military.

    It’s better to ask presidentiables if they will kowtow to generals or not than to ask if they will use the president’s seat to enrich themselves or not. The military poses such a real existential threat to our freedoms that it needs to be controlled by strong-willed man who will put them in their place and not be bullied into bribing them.

    The military at the moments smells opportunity with a billionaire president like Villar. “Hmmm, why not raise the spectre of corruption during Villar’s term, then threaten coup de etat, then get me some bribe money to allow him to stay in power? Wuhahahaha. WUHAHAHAHHA.”

  24. SoP

    Re: Military bullying Villar-Filipinos should read from the Thaksin Shinawatra saga in Thailand. I think we have the blueprint for a Villar presidency right there.

  25. joril38

    SoP, I can’t fault you for giving up on our kind of democracy (or political system, if you will), but I still regard the likes of Manual Quezon and Ramon Magsaysay as noble politicians vis a vis your PGMA and most presidential hopefuls. You have my deepest sympathy for being cynical.

    However, I’m not going to give up my country without a struggle, political or otherwise. For me, all these “money, power, money…..” is nothing more than “greed, more greed and even more greed”, which boils down to a simple case of dishonesty and misgovernance in public office. Fortunately, Noynoy promises to be different and I’m listening.

    Keep laughing…

  26. SoP

    Duh, I never called GMA noble. Magsaysay died before he had a chance to steal. Manuel Quezon…I’ll find some dirt on him. Or the other posters will.

    “Fortunately, Noynoy promises to be different and I’m listening.”

    LOL.

    Here’s the deal with Noynoy-he’s old and balding and only has his name and fleeting popularity to attract the likes of his girlfriend. Take away the prestige associated with his name and his current popularity and he won’t be able to pull chicks like Korina (who he dumped because she’s grown old) and his current young girlfriend. So he has a lot vested in being president, to lose the presidency means he would have difficulty passing on his sperms (the count must be low by now and the time is ticking) to a breedable young, attractive, healthy female. Shalani Soledad is doing a wait and see attitude with your Noynoy, thus her reluctance to marry him or get impregnated by him. After all, who wants to marry and bear the children of an old, balding, pale dude unless he’s an old, balding, pale president dude, an alpha male if you like.

    So what does all have to do with Noynoy being president? Biologically, Noynoy will now do anything to grab hold of presidency, as he will be reduced to wimp status sans the highest seat on the land. His circumstance means his principles are compromised, given that he has the above ulterior motive to be alpha male. He’ll do anything to be president-lie, cheat, steal. Not like Villar (who may have other motives as discussed in the posts), who is already a secure alpha male already way past breeding to produce offsprings.

  27. joril38

    Thanks, SoP. You’re simply amazing!

    You’ve made my day complete and I’m laughing heartily.

    Have a nice day!

  28. SoP

    You’re most welcome. And please, for your sake, stop listening to Noynoy’s lies.

  29. thecusponline

    If one stuides the history of banking (see Paul Hutchcroft’s Booty Capitalism), the story of Capitol Bank’s bailout is unremarkable. And if we look at Philippine economic history, we find that the principales and local elites took advantage of poor property rights to grab land. The financial and political markets are but other arenas in which such gaming of the system and bending of the rules take place.

    The only difference between the new rich and old rich is that the former still derives most of its wealth from such shady occupations, while the latter has graduated from it for the most part. Thus the Makati Business Club’s (representing old rich’s) backing of a rules based governance agenda.

    The entrepreneurial opportunism and high stakes game of risk taking that Villar represents provides both a boon and a bane for his political career (and the people he leads). On the one hand, he is admired and respected for his political and business savviness which make him a natural leader. On the other, there is this wreckless sense of risk taking that could be his (and the country’s?) undoing.

  30. thecusponline

    And as for this risk taking and rule breaking type of behaviour resulting in political and legal crises down the road which ultimately lead to popular uprisings and military intervention, a repitition of which is likely if we elect another “shady” candidate, this is a situation that must be avoided at all costs (even if it means having a less capable but trustworthy commander in chief).

    The country has already suffered for the last 10 years from the break-up of social cohesion and political instability resulting from the illegitimate acquisition and wielding of power. Although the economy has weathered it quite well, think of how much better it would have been or might be if we had or have a stable government that enjoyed political legitimacy and social cohesion.

  31. ramrod

    Some people are born to be “shakers and movers,” captains of industries, leaders who have to make the hard decisions – and some perennial hecklers and near-do-wells who get thier rocks off by taking pot shots at those who outshine everyone else… 🙂

  32. ramrod

    Shalani Soledad is doing a wait and see attitude with your Noynoy, thus her reluctance to marry him or get impregnated by him. After all, who wants to marry and bear the children of an old, balding, pale dude unless he’s an old, balding, pale president dude, an alpha male if you like.
    ————————————————

    What if that particular old, balding, pale dude prefers other dudes? She’s in for a big disappointment either way… 🙂

  33. ramrod

    In an interview on The Big Picture with Ricky Carandang, Villar said, “Kasi yung mga plataporma, madaling sabihin ‘yan e. Pagagawa mo lang sa speechwriter mo ang mga plataporma mo, sasabihin mo ‘yan, me-memorize-in mo ‘yan, okay na.” (See 7:01 to 7:10 of the video above.)
    ———————————————

    To Villar, platforms are not needed, what is? money, give people money and they will vote for you…

  34. Carl Cid Inting

    None of the candidates really espouses a philosophy with which to build on. They only mouth motherhood statements and hackneyed promises. They’re a bland set of boy scouts, all of them!

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