Press Release
April 7, 2010

Villar to Aquino: Let's go to Luisita

BANGUI, Ilocos Norte (April 6) - After daring Liberal Party standard-bearer Sen. Benigno Aquino III to visit Tondo where he lived in poverty several years ago, Nacionalista Party presidential candidate Sen. Manny Villar issued a twin challenge to his political foe to show who between them is telling the truth.

Accompanied by NP senatorial candidate Bongbong Marcos and former Ilocos Norte Rep. Imee Marcos, Villar said he wanted Aquino to invite him to Hacienda Luisita and show him where several protesting farmers were massacred in 2004.

"Gusto ko imbitahin ako ni Noynoy sa Hacienda Luisita at ipakita nya sa akin kung saan pinatay ang mga magsasaka ilang taon na ang nakalilipas," he told a press conference here.

Villar arrived in this coastal town at about noon, visiting the site for the power-generating windmill project in Barangay Kangkang here.

He said he also wanted to see in the Hacienda Luisita the vast tracts of land the Cojuangco family has refused to distribute to thousands of tenants in the sprawling estate.

Some of the victims in the massacre were members of families tilling the land at the plantation, he said.

While in Luisita, Villar said he also wanted to see the land that was appropriated to the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEX).

In 1999, Hacienda Luisita stirred a controversy when it entered into a questionable deal involving the purchase by the national government of 83 hectares of Luisita for the construction of a portion of the SCTEX.

Cavite Rep. Crispin Remulla has alleged that the Arroyo administration and the Aquino-Cojuangco clan of Tarlac agreed to an "overpriced" purchase of land from the 6,400-hectare hacienda for the right-of-way for the SCTEX.

The government, Remulla said, paid P83 million for the purchase of the right-of-way and poured in another P170 million for the construction of a road interchange in the middle of the sprawling sugar estate.

Remulla said the government agreed to buy 83 hectares of Luisita land at P100 per square meter, which he claimed was more than 10 times the going rate of P6 to P8 per square meter for similar raw sugar lands in Concepcion and San Miguel, Tarlac.

Meanwhile, farmers said the money should not land in the hands of the Cojuangco corporation because by law, it no longer solely owns the land, as ownership had transferred to hundreds of farmer-tillers through the Stock Distribution Option scheme.

There were calls last month for Aquino to shed light on accusations that he lobbied for the SCTEX to pass the Cojuangco-owned property. He was also dared to give up his share of earnings from the right-of-way payment.

"Nagtataka ako kung bakit pinadaan ang SCTEX sa Hacienda," Villar said.

In reply to a reporter's question on the possibility of irregularities in the acquisition of Hacienda Luisita land for the road project, Villar said: "Di lang naaamoy, talagang may anomalya."

In his talk with reporters. Villar also dared Aquino to present evidence that he has links to President Arroyo.

"Dapat silang maglabas ng ebidensya dahil sila ang nag-aakusa," he said, in reference to the "Villarroyo" coined by the Liberal Party.

He said it is Aquino who has links to Mrs. Arroyo, saying many of the latter's relatives are key officials in the executive department.

Among those occupying high-level positions in the Arroyo administration are Interior and Local Government Undersecretary Margarita Cojuangco, who heads the Philippine Public Safety College; Secretary Tessie Aquino Oreta, who heads the Early Childhood Care and Development Council; and Lupita Aquino-Kashiwahara, President Arroyo's image consultant.

Paul Aquino, who is now the chief political officer in Noynoy's campaign, was the CEO of Energy Development Corp. before it was privatized in 2007. It used to be a subsidiary of the state firm Philippine National Oil Co.

Former environment secretary Eleazar Quinto, a son-in-law of Kashiwahara is currently the director general of the Presidential Coalition Affairs Office under the Office of the President.

In sharp contrast, there is not a single Villar relative now employed in the Arroyo administration.

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