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Villa: Money, vehicle from Napoles part of attorney's fees.

Byline: Kristine Angeli Sabillo

MANILA -- Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA) chairman Rene Villa on Thursday admitted that he received money and a 4x4 pickup truck from Janet Lim-Napoles but as payment for his legal services.

"Hindi po iyon tulong (mula kay Napoles)...Yung mga iyon ay part of my attorney's fees (Those were not a form of assistance [from Napoles]...Those are part of my attorney's fees)," he told Radyo Inquirer 990AM.

Villa's name was recently been dragged into the "pork barrel" controversy after it was revealed that he served as Napoles' lawyer before he became LWUA chairman, making him the highest-profile government official with direct professional links to the alleged "pork barrel scam" mastermind.

Inquirer earlier reported that Villa, a Liberal Party stalwart and supposed political protege of Senator Franklin Drilon in Iloilo, received P500,000 in cash from Napoles in February 2010. It was during this time that the lawyer was running for congressman in the third district of Iloilo.

Villa said he was having difficulty looking for a particular 4x4 pickup truck, sourced from Thailand, to be used for his campaign when Napoles offered to help him.

"Sabi nya, 'Sige may tatawagan ako.' Siguro client nya sa isang Toyota outlet. Right there and then nakakakuha sya. Nung makuha nya pina-ship ko sa Iloilo. I offered to pay her kasi kailangan ko naman. Sabi nya, 'Wag na lang. Ibawas na lang natin sa attorney's fees na binabayad-bayad ko sayo," Villa said.

("She said, 'I'll call someone.' Perhaps her client at a Toyota outlet. Right there and then she got one. When she got (the car), I had it shipped to Iloilo. I offered to pay her because I really needed it. She said, 'Don't. Let's just deduct it from the attorney's fees I am paying you," Villa said.)

He declined to say how much his attorney's fees were.

A former secretary of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), Villa was among the group of Cabinet members dubbed "Hyatt 10" who resigned after then President and Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was accused of electoral fraud.

"I'm a non-issue here. I'm a lawyer trying to earn his living while out of the government," he said in defense of his decision to then take Napoles as a client.

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Publication:Philippines Daily Inquirer (Makati City, Philippines)
Geographic Code:9PHIL
Date:Oct 31, 2013
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