Legarda: New York condo duly declared; fellow Team PNoy bet behind smear drive
MANILA, Philippines — Having had enough, re-electionist Sen. Loren Legarda has lashed out at a publicist she identified as “Willie F.” who she claimed had been hired by a fellow senatorial candidate to dislodge her from the top spot in surveys.
Legarda called a press conference at the Team PNoy headquarters in Makati City to respond to allegations that she had failed to include in her statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN) a Park Avenue apartment in New York City and a mansion reportedly worth hundreds of millions of pesos in Forbes Park.
The senator initially presented a certification signed by her lawyers indicating that the New York apartment had been listed in her SALN since 2007 when she won a fresh term after losing the vice presidential race to fellow broadcaster Noli de Castro in 2004.
Legarda said the property was purchased while she was still married to former Batangas Gov. Antonio Leviste. Their marriage has been annulled.
A greater part of the news conference, however, centered on how Willie F. had allegedly sent to journalists “column feeds” about her supposed efforts to conceal the New York property and her eventual decision to reveal it only in her 2011 SALN submitted at the height of the impeachment trial of then Chief Justice Renato Corona last year.
It would be recalled that Corona’s failure to include significant assets such as condominium units and dollar deposits in his SALN convinced senator-judges to convict him of culpable violation of the Constitution and other offenses.
“The certification I have in my hand, prepared by my lawyers, is clear: The SALN I filed on June 30, 2007 includes the New York property subject of the black propaganda, described as ‘Other Investment’ in Annex A,” Legarda’s prepared statement said.
She noted that in that SALN, she disclosed the property having an amount of P7,175,000 “equal to one-fourth of the total investment in the acquisition of apartment amounting to P28,700,000.”
“Beginning December 31, 2007 up to December 31, 2010, the same property was also included in the SALN described as `Equity in Real Property,’ also one-fourth of the total P 28,700,000,” the statement said.
“As of December 31, 2011 and December 31, 2012 the New York property was also included in my SALN described as `Real Property-USA,’’’ it added.
Legarda named Philippine Star columnist Domini Torrevillas and Alvin Capino of Business Mirror as just two of the columnists who alerted her about e-mails supposedly sent by Willie F. with a request that these be used.
Legarda provided reporters with photocopies of an e-mail message apparently forwarded to her by Torrevillas.
Dated “1 May 2013,” the e-mail said: “Dear Domini, Hope you can use this for your col (sic) … Best regards, Willie F.”
The column feed is titled “Is Legarda the lady (sic) Corona?”
“Hindi ko po alam kung sino o baka naman kilala po nyo. Nakalulungkot na ang black propaganda nanggagaling po sa isang PR (public relations officer) ng isang senatorial candidate,” Legarda told reporters.
Her voice suddenly shaking, the senator added: “Kailangan na akong magsalita at di maaari na kung sinong malinis ang siyang binabato. (I have to speak out and somebody who is clean should not be hit.) The number one senator does not run away.”
Legarda said that apart from her, this rival was also targeting a third senatorial candidate who was also doing well in the surveys until recently.
“The other target is slowly going down because of their efforts,” she noted.
Reporters peppered Legarda with questions about Willie F. and his client.
Legarda would not reveal their identities on camera, only hinting that her rival was a male reelectionist senator who also spread wild rumors about President Aquino’s mental health during his presidential run in 2010.
“He is known in the media as ‘Boy Kuryente (bum steer),’” she added. Apparently, the moniker was coined when the senator’s allegation against Mr. Aquino was later debunked.
Legarda said she had a talk with the President before calling reporters. “Thank you for your patience, Loren,” she recalled the President telling her on the line.
She said she reminded the President that the other candidate also spread nasty rumors about his mental health when he ran for president in 2010.
Legarda added that Sen. Franklin Drilon, who managed the Team PNoy senatorial campaign, had given her permission to use the Makati headquarters after she told him of what the other candidate had been doing.
It would be recalled that Legarda first revealed the alleged effort to pull her down from first place in surveys after her appearance in the first Inquirer Senate Forum held in Diliman, Quezon City.
She told the Inquirer at the time that another candidate among those enjoying a comfortable ranking in the surveys was behind text messages maligning her.