Joel Villanueva, the embattled chief of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda) who is reportedly eyeing a Senate seat in next year’s elections, is now considering crossing over to other political parties, including the opposition United Nationalist Alliance (UNA).
Villanueva, said to be a close friend of President Benigno Aquino 3rd, on Monday said he is not closing his doors to the possibility of joining the senatorial slate of other political parties after he uncovered a plot to ease him out of the Cabinet and from the ruling party’s senatorial slate.
The maneuvers were reportedly masterminded by a faction within the Liberal Party (LP) stalwarts that is identified with Interior Secretary Manuel “Mar” Roxas 2nd.
“Yes, I am open [joining other political parties],” Villanueva, a close friend of the President, said in a text message, adding that he remains an ally of the administration.
Villanueva earlier disclosed that he is “90 percent” sure he would run for the Senate in next year’s polls.
The Tesda chief said he will try his luck in next year’s polls only if his ratings in senatorial surveys continue to rise.
Villanueva, the youngest member of the Aquino Cabinet, had served for nine years as party-list representative of Citizens’ Battle Against Corruption (CIBAC) before he was appointed as Tesda chief in 2010.
Along with other lawmakers, he is facing graft charges in connection with the P10-billion Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel scam.
He said he could not fathom why he was included in the pork barrel case despite the absence of solid evidence against him.
“I am not mad or angry but I am really disappointed. Nagtataka lang ako sa dami ng ebidensya na hindi ako dapat isama, pinilit isama [I am just surprised that despite lack of evidence against me, they really labored to include me],” Villanueva noted.
“I really don’t know what is motivating the Department of Justice [DOJ] to file a case with no basis. Somehow I am relieved that finally I would know what’s really in it and that I can finally defend myself not in the context of allegegations from the DOJ,” the Tesda chief said.
Villanueva earlier denied involvement in the pork barrel scam.
Palace: Joel still an ally
Malacañang also on Monday said Tesda Director General Villanueva remains an ally of the Aquino administration despite his claims that some people within the LP are moving against him.
In a text message to reporters, Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said Villanueva will remain an effective ally of the administration amid the controversy.
“According to Sec. Villanueva, he was taken aback by the filing of a complaint against him by the NBI [National Bureau of Investigation] as he was not a party to the alleged [pork barrel]transactions,” the Palace official added.
Reacting to The Manila Times report published also on Monday about Villanueva’s “disappointment” over how certain individuals identified with Roxas are treating him shabbily, Coloma maintained that the Tesda chief will not bolt the administration.
“Despite efforts by detractors to malign him, he remains committed to the continuation of President Aquino’s good governance platform,” he said.
In an interview with this paper last Sunday, Villanueva said he was disappointed by the machinations of the group that could also be behind his inclusion in the latest batch of former and active lawmakers charged in connection with the P10-billion pork barrel scam.