“Do you have what it takes to be seen in the Senate (again)??”

What do voters look for in choosing which candidate to put into position? Is it based on educational background? Political experience and accomplishments? Or does it depend on which side he/she is in favor of?

Dubbed as “Mr. Sipag at Tiyaga”, Manuel “Manny” Villar Jr., is seeking for reelection this May 2007 elections. Aside from being the president of the Senate and the Nacionalista Party, he is also known for his entrepreneurial programs and housing innovations in the country. So, to help people decide whether or not to put him back to position, one should take a closer look at the life and doings of “Mr. Sipag at Tiyaga”.

“Hard work, persistence, and perseverance became his guiding principles in life…”

Manny Villar was born in Moriones, Tondo, Manila on December 13, 1949. He was the second of nine children of Manuel Montalban Villar Sr., a government employee, and Curita Bamba, a seafood dealer. At an early age, he was already helping her mother inselling fish and shrimp in Divisoria to send himself to school. He was a working student in University of the Philippines, where he earned both his undergraduate and master’s degree in Business Administration and Accountancy. At the same time, he was also putting in long hours as a fish and shrimp trader.

After graduation, he was hired as an accountant in the country’s biggest accounting firm, Sycip Gorres Velayo & Co. (SGV & Co.). He stayed there for only a year because he decided to venture on his own seafood delivery service. He also worked as a financial analyst at the Private Development Corporation of the Philippines for three years, then decided to quit his job there and availed one of their loans.

Aside from being a successful entrepreneur, Villar also became the housing industry leader, and the biggest homebuilder in Southeast Asia, having built more than 100,000 houses for the poor and middle class Filipino families. He then initiated mass housing projects to achieve economies of sales. For this, the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) calls him the “dean of the Philippine real estate industry”.

Despite a busy schedule and amidst the pressures of work, Manny Villar remains a simple family man, a devote husband to his wife Rep. Cynthia Aguilar Villar (Lone District of Las Pinas) and a responsible father to his three offspring – Paolo, Mark and Camille.

An overwhelming debut in politics welcomed Villar when he was elected as Las Pinas Representative in 1992. He was also the House Representative in the government’s negotiations with the International Monetary Fund in Washington, DC in that same year. As a key member in the House’s Economic team, he focused in economic reform measures of the Ramos administration such as the New Foreign Investments Act and restructuring of the Central Bank of the Philippines.

During his first term as Las Pinas representative, he centered his plans on infrastructure, education, and environmental developments. Some of his projects were:
a. construction of concrete roads and the Alabang-Zapote flyover;
b. introduced “friendship route” to ease traffic problems in Southern Manila by persuading subdivision homeowners to open their roads to the general public;
c. opened two major roads, the Sucat-Pulanglupa link road to Paranaque, and Zapote-Molino link road to Cavite;
d. formalized his programs of rehabilitating historical and cultural landmarks like the Bamboo organ Church and the Las Pinas Historical Corridor, the ongoing projects which covers the stretch of the Old District and may even rival the Intramuros and Vigan restoration projects;
e. organized “Manpower on Wheels Program”, a livelihood training school housed in a van that makes rounds in depressed areas; (this program has produced around 5000 graduates since its implementation, and has been recognized by different civic organizations and institutions)
f. initiated a privately funded tree planting drive in his district, developed a 10 million-tree nursery beside his home, and led a tree planting drive fully equipped with maintenance and watering of tree seedlings planted in open spaces of the community.

When he ran for reelection in 1995, he won the highest number of votes for a congressional representative in the Philippines (garnering 142,000 votes). In his second term, he fulfilled his responsibility by upgrading Las Pinas hospital (with new buildings and facilities), launching of “Sagip-Bukas” drug prevention program in all private and public schools in Las Pinas, among others.

It was in 1998 when Villar was designated as the Speaker of the 11th Congress of the House of Representatives, where he achieved 171 of 220 congressmen in the country. In his first day in office, the “brown taipan” in Congress indicated a watershed event in the Philippine political economy when he embarked on three path-breaking reforms such as:
a. organized consensus in the House to reform the “pork barrel” system by limiting congressional discretion projects to the set parameters of the executive’s development policies;
b. overhauled leadership by appointing at least seven neophyte representatives to head powerful committees like ecology and banks; and
c. set a strong stance on environmental protection legislation with the passage of the Clean Air Act (RA 8749).

In his second year, Villar initiated measures of laws aimed at legislation and economic reforms. Among these are:
- Retail Trade Liberation Act
- New Central Bank Act
- New Securities Code
- New Banking Act
Being one of the leading entrepreneurs in the country, he applied his skills and knowledge in improving the cause of small and medium enterprises. He authored and passed into law the RA 8289, the New Magna Carta for Small and Medium Enterprises. He also pioneered creative legislation such as the founding of the SME Stock Exchange and Business One-Stop-Shop centers, which he immediately implemented in his district.

In 2001 senatorial elections, Villar posted one of the most impressive showings in the national polls. He filed 204 bills covering an extensive legislative program of action in his first day, being the first among neophytes and third highest filer among the senators of the 12th Congress.

He assumed the position of Senate President Pro-Tempore, the second to the highest position in the Senate. He was the Chairman of Committee of Finance and Committee of Public Order and Illegal Drugs. He also serves as the vice chairperson of the Committee on Foreign Relations and Committee of Agriculture.

In his stay in the 12th Congress, Villar was able to author 44 laws. Among these are:
RA 9178 Barangay Micro Business Enterprises Act
RA 9189 Overseas Absentee Voting Act
RA 9208 Anti-Trafficking of Persons Act
RA 9257 Act Granting Additional Benefits and Privileges to Senior Citizens
RA 9262 Anti-violence against Women and their Children Act
RA 9211 Tobacco Regulation Act
RA 9166 Promoting Welfare of AFP
RA 9160 Anti-Money Laundering Act
RA 9344 Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act
RA 9335 Attrition Act
RA 9334 Increasing Excise Tax Rates of Alcohol and Tobacco
RA 9367 Biofuels Act
RA 9369 Automated Election System Act

In 2004, Villar was elected as the President of the Nacionalista Party, the country’s oldest and grandest political party.

For his innovative programs, dedication, and hardwork, Villar has received a number of awards and recognitions from various institutions and organizations not only within the country but of outside countries as well.

He has been featured in Far Eastern Economic Review, Asiaweek, Forbes, AsiaMoney and Asian Business Review for his business achievements. He has also received honorary degrees in different colleges and universities in the country for his outstanding performance in public service, innovations and programs aimed towards the soaring of the country’s mass housing and real estate industry.

As well-respected figures in Philippine politics, Senators, including Villar, are expected to express their opinions on the main issues facing the country.

On extrajudicial killings…

“A society where there is no rule of law and no one skilled in applying the law is a chaotic society where the weakest among us have no chance and the strongest among us have no restraint. The rule of law is the backbone of a democratic, peaceful, and orderly society and an efficient and trustworthy judiciary is the true guardian of our freedom and the last line of defense against tyranny”, Villar stated in his Senate Resolution 252. This aims to conduct an inquiry into the “media killings” in particular into the findings of New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) that identified the Philippines as the “most murderous country for journalists”.

Villar led investigations on extrajudicial killings of journalists and lawyers when he was still the chair of the Committee of Public Order and Illegal Drugs. When the Supreme Court assigned 99 regional courts to investigate on the issue, he provided full support and positive insight on SC’s decision.

“ It sounds good and looks nice on paper…I do hope that these courts will do their best in resolving the cases of extrajudicial killings as soon as possible. The victims and their families deserve prompt justice no less…I trust that the Supreme Court will not be lenient with those who will not deliver on time”, says Villar.

On divorce/abortion/family planning…

Villar has not given a direct stand towards divorce, abortion, and family planning. However, being an advocate of the protection of women, Villar joined forces with Gabriela to protect women and their children from abuse and against any other threats to their rights and personal safety. And even if no specific statements on these issues were given out, the mere fact that these issues involve women, children and family members, one more or less has a clue on how Villar puts his side on.

In his commercial with actresses Angel Locsin, Tessie Tomas, Jennylyn Mercado and Rio Locsin, he emphasized the need to protect the welfare of women by stating the provisions of RA 9262 or “The Anti-Violence against Women and Family Members Law”.

“There should be a continuous information campaign about the issue of violence against women and their children…people should know that any form of violence against women and other members of the family are illegal and punishable under our laws”, Villar cites.

On Charter Change…

“Time has run out for chacha or any similar proposal for that matter”, said Villar in reaction to news reports saying that he has expressed his support for the proposed charter change through a constituent assembly.

Villar said that he was misquoted on his position about amending the constitution. He stressed that his position was “voting separately” and it is not true that he was in support of the House initiative.

Moreover, he said that the Senate would remain focused on passing important pending legislative proposals in the upper chamber since there is only a week of session left for Congress before it adjourns for a Christmas break then.

In this light, Villar suggested that in order to come up with a more solid decision on Charter Change, the government must first ask the general public if they want amendment, and if they do, which of the three modes provided will they prefer.

“I think we should now consider asking in the May elections what they truly want…[I]f we could get a clear and direct response from our people, then we will have no problems with Charter Change”, Villar stated.


In Villar’s statement last January 19, 2006, he opposed the continuation of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) saying that, “[T]he benefits, quantifiable or unquantifiable, that the military are getting as a result of VFA are not enough to justify its continuation”.

Being a member of the LOVFA (Legislative Oversight Committee on the VFA), he supports the scrapping of the VFA. He said that it so many lopsided provisions that should be negotiated.

“It’s about time that we show them that the welfare of our citizens is more important to us than any agreements or whatsoever’, Villar stressed in the Congress panel on Sen. Santiago’s Concurrent Resolution about the notice of termination that would give way for the renegotiation of the VFA.

Also, he clearly emphasized that the people’s sentiments seem to echo our sentiments on the VFA. Villar referred to an SWS survey citing that the enthusiasm about US military help has declined since only one-third of respondents are now saying that the country gets much benefit from the Balikatan exercises.

On education…

In response to the rising costs of education, Villar is pushing for additional benefits and privileges to lighten the financial burden of Filipino students.

In this light, he filed Senate Bill 570 that aims to further strengthen and broaden the coverage of special program for employment of students, as well as Senate Bill 527 that seeks to ease the pressure of very high educational cost on parents and students by granting them additional privileges.

“Given the difficult circumstances that our working students face on a daily basis, they need the support and understanding of their employers. They should be treated like ordinary employees or workers, but they should also be given some extra consideration”, cites Villar referring to SB 570.

Villar decided to propose this bill also because he has experienced the hardships of being a working student when he was still a student in the University of the Philippines.

Meanwhile, there has no news reports citing Villar’s stand on one of the most controversial issue faced by the administration – the Garci tape issue. In an interview with him, he said that the Garci tape scandal has its own committee and that they are the ones responsible for the resolution of the issue.—Donabelle Enriquez

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