Cynthia Villar: Dreaming of rice smugglers
MANILA, Philippines – The most senior neophyte, Senator Cynthia Villar holds influence as a former Las Piñas representative, and a key leader of the Nacionalista Party of her husband, former Senate President Manuel “Manny” Villar Jr.
Early on in her term, the businesswoman and her real estate magnate husband were named in the state audit report on pork barrel transactions for allegedly violating procurement laws. She responded that the local government of Las Piñas already corrected the deficiencies.
Months later, newspaper reports linked her husband to a computer project allegedly involving Napoles. She took exception, saying they only accepted computers for their constituents without checking where these came from. “They are confusing the issues to drag others.”
While she joined the pork barrel hearings, Villar focused on her own investigation into rice smuggling as chairperson of the coveted agriculture committee.
Building on the findings in the 15th Congress, Villar was able to connect the dots between suspected smugglers, and the brokers who used farmers’ cooperatives as fronts to import rice. The scheme was so complex that she said, “I already dream about the list of companies. There are so many I haven’t memorized them all."
Why is a former financial analyst and bank manager suddenly into agriculture? Rosendo So, head of the agriculture industry alliance Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura (SINAG), told Rappler that his group approached Villar during the campaign to show her how the sector played a major role in her advocacy of livelihood development.
“She talked to the coops that were sued and used. She listens. The onion farmers, she consulted with them, too. So far, she is doing good in the investigation. The farmers will not coordinate with her if they do not think the chairman is credible,” So said in Filipino.
Villar also heads the committee on government corporations, where she continued her campaign against reclamation. She opened an investigation seeking a review of the mandate of the Philippine Reclamation Authority, arguing that reclamation harms the environment.
Her 66 bills reflect her and her husband’s priorities including those creating a department for Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs), a 6-year accelerated irrigation program, and inclusion of entrepreneurship in the curriculum. She also sponsored the bill extending the Philippine National Railways, an administration measure.
Ironically, after drawing the ire of nurses for a comment she made during the campaign, the senator filed a bill assigning one registered nurse per barangay to give them employment. She also promised to set up a pilot clinic for nurses who want to be entrepreneurs.
For the remainder of Villar’s term, SINAG’s So said they are already in talks about a food safety bill that will ensure testing and proper labeling of products from abroad.
Of 2016 and NP’s aspiring standard bearer Senator Alan Peter Cayetano, Villar was her typical blunt self. “Sabi niya ino-offer niya ang sarili niya kung gusto ng tao. Tingnan niya at the end of the year.” (He said he is offering himself to the people. He should see if they accept him at the end of the year.) – Rappler.com
See Villar's 2013 candidate profile in our election microsite.
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