JPE raises concern over trend to buy off candidates

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile yesterdday warned the people against picking candidates who use their wealth to be elected in office amid a series of allegations against Senator Manuel Villar of offering money and key position to rival presidential bets in exchange for their withdrawal from the race.

“You know it’s dangerous for people to spend too much money to attain an elective position,” Enrile told reporters in an interview in Cebu.

“I think it’s better that the people would know this so they can judge each one of the candidates for the presidency… I cannot believe a person, who will spend a fortune which cannot be attained by many Filipinos, would do it only for public service. There must be something, more interesting motivation behind it,” said Enrile, who is running for reelection under the Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino (PMP).

Senator Richard Gordon, who is seeking the highest elective post under Bagumbayan Party, had revealed that an alleged emissary of Villar, standard bearer of Nacionalista Party, offered to reimburse his campaign expenses and to appoint him to a Cabinet position of his choice if he would exit from the presidential race.

Gordon also said that at the height of the investigation into the controverial C-5 project he was approached to withdraw his support for Enrile to reinstall Villar as Senate president before the adjournment of Congress.

This is not the first time that Villar’s camp has been accused of buying off candidates and politicians in exchange for favors.

Former President Joseph Estrada, presidential bet of PMP, disclosed last month that he had received offers from a representative of a billionaire candidate if he would drop his presidential bid. Estrada, however, declined to identify the presidential contender.

Enrile said that Villar himself tried to “buy me off, I supposed in exchange for a favorable decision” while the investigation into the multi-billion C-5 project was underway. Twelve senators signed the Senate Committee of the Whole censuring Villar for allegedly making sure that his real estate company benefit from the multi-million right-of-way deal in the road extension project.

At that time, the Senate chief said there were persistent rumors of plans to oust him by Villar and senators allied with the Nacionalista Party presidential contender but he chose to keep quiet.

“I know that more or less. That was indicated to me by Senator Gordon but I kept quiet about it because I did not want to say that to the public. Well now, it has been said by Senator Gordon,” the veteran legislator said.

“I think the least I can say about him (Villar) is that he is trying very hard to become the president and he would do almost anything to get there,” Enrile added.#