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An Open Letter To Candidate Manuel ‘Manny’ Villar

February 12, 2010

Dear Mr. former Senate President,

This missive is several days late.

I had spoken several days ago to a journalist friend whose counsel I respect highly and whose political insights are valued by not a few.

He told me you had just gone into the lions’ den, in a manner of speaking.

He was referring to your talk before the Makati Business Club at which he said you spoke at length about your political plat form being rightly anchored on battling powerty.

He also pointed out that you are the President our country is looking for: a self-made ‘nanggaling sa hirap’ multi-billionaire who can run the Philippines like a CEO,  someone not beholden  to any business interests and campaign contributors.

That made sense, I told myself.

But as my friend had another meeting to catch, we ended our chat.

My interest about your MBC talk aroused, I scoured you website to looking for a transcript of your speech.

Finding none, I had to content myself with the news accounts that quoted you are saying these:

Sen. Manuel Villar:

I am happy because I know I am not popular with the MBC but I wanted to come here so that they will hear my views and see what I plan to do for our country. The business sector is important in our [goal] of alleviating poverty.

My advisers informed me of the results of MBC in-house surveys that showed I am not its favorite candidate. That survey, however, represented only 13 percent of MBC members.

Someone even warned me that addressing you would be like Barack Obama addressing the Ku Klux Klan.

Given my background, my humble beginnings, which most of you are aware of by now, I think it would be useful not to dwell on what makes us so different, but to point out what we have in common.

Often, mistrust stems from a perception that ‘he is not one of us’ … I am not saying that that is the main reason why perhaps, many of you do not support me. But I will say that it is probably easier to throw one’s support behind someone familiar, someone they think they know.

Our country has too many complex problems and too many competing interests and we will need a strong leader with a proven track record to even have a chance. If I’m elected, I will give you strong and honest leadership.

Our country’s next leader should hit the ground running and should be able to multitask and handle matters such as foreign affairs while implementing poverty alleviation programs.

Independence

As I am not beholden to anyone, I will be in strong position to reduce tax evasion and smuggling.
From Day One of my presidency there will be zero tolerance for graft and corruption.

While no country had totally eradicated it, I will work hard to reduce it significantly.

Biddings for government projects will be televised for transparency to send a message that we mean business..

Poverty

Just as I have promised to the people, we will make poverty alleviation our top priority. However, this is something that everyone, including the poor themselves, must strive for and work towards.

What I can do is give more access and opportunities to those who don’t have it because they are poor.

I will build safety nets for the less fortunate – more access to health care, for example. For our OFWs, there must be a system to address their needs when they encounter trouble overseas and to bring them back if need b.

To solve poverty, job creation would be .critical. We will start an entrepreneurial revolution in the country.

We will build safety nets for the less fortunate, such as providing them with easier access to health care.

Education

We will raise education standards and spend more for education.

I want to create a more competitive environment among schools, among teachers, so that those that perform well are rewarded and those that don’t are held accountable.

Although one must mention that the survey I saw represented only 13 percent of your membership. Someone even warned me that it would be like Barrack Obama addressing the Ku Klux Klan.

Corruption

Sadly, there is no country in the world that has been able to eliminate it (corruption) completely. I will work hard to reduce it significantly.

Business environment

What I will do is to create an investment climate where our country will be back on the radar screen of foreign investors.

Simply levelling the playing field is not good enough.

What good is a level playing field here, if the field in other countries is much more attractive?”

All investors want clear rules, simple tax laws, availability and competence of labor and decent infrastructure.

C-5 road controversy

I have been accused of C-5 which is to me a clear concoction.

I have answered that many times… there are others that I am supposed to be the candidate of GMA. I have not talked to GMA ever since I was ousted as Senate president.

Taxes

I cannot promise no new taxes as the next administration will inherit empty coffers. The fiscal deficit this year is projected to balloon to over P300 billion or about 3.5 percent of GDP,” he said.

It would be irresponsible of me to limit my options knowing the magnitude of the problem.

Of course, we will push to raise revenues and spend wisely.

But as we have seen, raising revenues is not a simple matter. We already have one of the highest tax rates in the region.

But people will have to pay their taxes. I am beholden to no one that I will be in a strong position to reduce tax evasion and smuggling in this country.

I reserve the option to increase taxes. I did not say I will do this. We will stop smuggling, we will go after them. I will show that we are capable of going after them.

Jaded and cynical as one can be it would be easy to dismiss your avowals as plain political ‘trapoism’.

But that would be foolhardy given the rut our country is in.
We do need to find a CEO, as my friend counseled me.

I. however, have to ask myself if YOU indeed are that CEO.

I have a problem with your intractable attitude about refusing to make a clean breast of things about the C-5 road project and your ties with Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

And another troubling issue surfaced of late:
An alleged land-grabbing incident in 1998 in the hilly town of Norzagaray in Bulacan, right beside the foothills of the Sierra Madre.

The details are here:

http://www.stuartsantiago.com/exposing-manny-villar/

And here:

http://filipinovoices.com/the-real-villars

I will not discuss this aspect right now given the complexity of the cases now in court.

But I do hope YOU will clear the air.

I have a BIG problem about your ‘talk-to-the-hand’ style, the projection that you don’t owe Filipinos any explanation, that no one can seemingly hold you to account.

Finally, you claim you are not beholden to any business interests, to any campaign contributor.

Fine.

How about being beholden to YOUR businesses, YOUR interests?

Please disabuse our doubts and fears.

We DO need a CEO, but one who is honest, one who is fair, and one you is beyond reproach.

Are you the one?

Postwscript:

Notwithstanding the weighty questions hounding Mr. Villar, he and his handlers are visibly upbeat about the survey numbers showing him running neck and neck against Senator Noynoy Aquino.

His latest media sortie was at DZMM radio:


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