Roxas: No immunity for LP men
Membership in the ruling Liberal Party is not a license to commit wrongdoing.
This was how Interior Secretary Mar Roxas reacted Thursday when asked about Rene Villa, the chair of the Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA) who allegedly received cash and campaign donations from
Janet Lim-Napoles, the alleged mastermind of a P10-billion scam.
Roxas, the president on-leave of the LP, said in an ambush interview at Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3 that he had already asked Senate President Franklin Drilon to talk to Villa, the senator’s political protégé.
But Roxas was quick to point out that membership in the ruling party did not exculpate anyone from liabilities arising from one’s conduct.
“So we recognize his membership in the Liberal Party, but it doesn’t mean that (Villa’s) membership is a blanket (immunity from suit),” Roxas said. “So we’re now ascertaining what are the specifics.”
Asked by the Inquirer if Villa was still an active member of the party, Roxas said: “Yes. We have (in the LP) a category of persons of national stature because he was a Cabinet secretary.”
Villa ran but lost in the congressional election in the third district of Iloilo province in 2010. He ran under the LP.
Roxas disclosed that Villa was part of the group of Cabinet members called “Hyatt 10” who resigned at the height of the ballot-fixing scandal involving then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in 2005. Villa was then secretary of agrarian reform.
“I think we need to get the facts about what happened. I haven’t talked yet to Villa. I think Senator Frank Drilon has talked to him. So we’re just waiting for that,” Roxas said.
He said he expected Drilon, an LP stalwart, to provide information that would give him a better handle of issues now hounding Villa.
Villa has denied wrongdoing. He said the money he got from Napoles was compensation for his services as her lawyer when he was out of the government service.
In September 2011, Aquino appointed Villa to replace former Rep. Prospero Pichay of Surigao del Sur province, who was sacked for his alleged misuse of LWUA funds.
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