Villa won't go on leave amid Napoles controversy
MANILA - Malacanan is not keen on asking Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA) chair and Liberal Party (LP) member Rene Villa to take a leave of absence in the wake of his much-talked about relationship with controversial businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles, the alleged brains behind the multibillion-peso "pork barrel" scam.
Villa has admitted that he served as Napoles' lawyer in the past, but denied knowledge of any of her alleged anomalous transactions involving public funds.
Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte told reporters that absent any formal allegation of misuse of funds against Villa, there is no need to ask him to take a leave if only to insulate the Aquino administration from any negative effect this issue may have.
For now, Valte said it is up to Villa to address the issue.
"It would be up to him to answer any statements against him... it would be best to answer any specific charges of misuse, if any. It should not be guilt by association," Valte said.
Former Napoles employees who have turned "whistle-blowers" against the embattled businesswoman revealed that Villa regularly received huge sums of money from Napoles.
In a report by the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the "whistle-blowers" alleged that Villa received money from Napoles' Masaganang Buhay Foundation, one of several "bogus" foundations put up by Napoles for "ghost government projects."
In the same report, ex-Napoles employee Merlina Suñas implicated Villa to the multi-million peso Malampaya Fund mess, stating that Napoles made him "handle" paperwork for local governments.
Villa dismissed this, and pointed out that he received lawyer's fees from Napoles, nothing more.
Valte stressed that any official under the Aquino administration, as well as any member of the ruling LP, will not be spared from accountability.
"But there must be a tangible act or allegation, so far, none, [against Villa]," Valte said.
Villa said he became friends with Napoles after he helped her in a failed business venture; he has described Napoles as a "generous" client.
Napoles is facing plunder charges before the office of the Ombudsman for the "pork barrel" scam and Malampaya Fund controversy.