MANILA, Philippines – Another appointed official with alleged links to the mastermind of the pork barrel scam has resigned, Palace Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Secretary Herminio “Sonny” Coloma Jr disclosed on Saturday, December 7.
In an interview over dzRB, Coloma said that President Benigno Aquino III has accepted the resignation of Rene Villa as acting chairman of the Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA). Villa’s resignation took effect on Nov 30, 2013.
Villa’s resignation was a “personal decision,” said Coloma.
More than a month ago, Villa was thrust into the limelight after he was named by pork barrel scam whistleblowers, Marina Sula specifically, as among those present in events organized by alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles.
In a sworn statement dated Aug 29, 2013, Sula said, “These personalities who would either visit our office or join our events and affairs are: Senator Franklin Drilon, Senator Jinggoy Estrada and family, Senator Bong Revilla, Lani Mercado-Revilla, Bryan Revilla, Secretary Rene Villa…” (READ: Navigating the PDAF scam affidavits)
In another affidavit dated Sept 12, 2013, Sula also said she saw Villa 2-3 times in their JLN Corp office at Discovery Suites in Ortigas. JLN stands for Janet Lim Napoles.
Drilon and his wife were also seen by Sula in 2009 at the Heritage Park in Taguig City when they attended the death anniversary rites for the mother of Napoles. Villa and Drilon are known to have close links.
Previously published reports said Villa, also a member of the ruling Liberal Party, was Napoles’ counsel for 4 years. Quoted in an Inquirer story, Villa said he was only in charge of Napoles’ international business transactions, while her other lawyers handled her criminal and labor cases. He worked with Napoles from 2006 but ended the relationship with his client when he joined government.
In October, Coloma said the link to Napoles was “not an issue” for the Palace since Villa “is not implicated in any irregularity.”
Villa insisted he knew nothing of Napoles’ government transactions.
During a Senate hearing, Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago blasted Villa, calling him “an OFW masquerading as an international trade lawyer.”
Public Works and Highways Secretary Rogelio Singson will oversee LWUA, while he prepares to submit a recommendation to the Palace, said Coloma.
Napoles faces charges of plunder for allegedly orchestrating the systematic channeling of lawmakers’ Priority Development Assistance Funds through her fake non-government organizations.
She is current detained at the Fort Sto Domingo in Laguna for serious illegal detention charges. – Bea Cupin/Rappler.com