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‘CRUSADING ART’  Iloilo 3rd District Rep. Arthur “Art” Defensor Sr. (center) announces his plan to regain the governor’s office in the 2010 elections during a press conference in Iloilo City Thursday. Behind him are his supporters (from left to right) including his son, Board Member Arthur Defensor Jr., 4th district Rep. Ferj Biron, running mate Board Member Oscar “Richard” Garin Jr., 1st district Rep. Janet Garin, former congressman Licurgo Tirador and Vice Gov. Rolex Suplico. Thirty-two of the 43 municipal mayors support the Defensor-Garin tandem. (Photo by Tara Yap)

‘CRUSADING ART’ Iloilo 3rd District Rep. Arthur “Art” Defensor Sr. (center) announces his plan to regain the governor’s office in the 2010 elections during a press conference in Iloilo City Thursday. Behind him are his supporters (from left to right) including his son, Board Member Arthur Defensor Jr., 4th district Rep. Ferj Biron, running mate Board Member Oscar “Richard” Garin Jr., 1st district Rep. Janet Garin, former congressman Licurgo Tirador and Vice Gov. Rolex Suplico. Thirty-two of the 43 municipal mayors support the Defensor-Garin tandem. (Photo by Tara Yap)

Defensor-Garin tandem vows reforms at provincial gov’t

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

HOUSE Majority Floor Leader Arthur Defensor Sr. wants to restore decency at the Iloilo provincial government and the people’s trust and confidence in government, reason why he wants to return to the capitol.

Defensor proffered this motivation when he formally declared his candidacy for governor in the May 2010 elections at Hotel Del Rio Thursday morning before a big group of local political leaders.

Defensor also introduced his running mate, Board Member Richard Garin, but cut short of their lineup for the provincial board.

Defensor said he is on a “crusade for reform and restoration of the people’s faith and trust in government”.

He said he had no plans to return to the provincial capitol “as I felt I have served the people well with honor and dignity.”

But Defensor said there is a need to “put an end to continuity” and restore honor and dignity in the provincial government.

Apparently, Defensor was making swipes at the present administration of Gov. Niel Tupas Sr. which has been beset by issues of graft and corruption.

Defensor said he is confident to win the 2010 elections with the support of at least 32 mayors, provincial board members and other political behemoths in the province.

He also basked in his alliance with Garin whom he described as an able ally at the Capitol.

“I fell honored and privileged to have Board Member Richard Garin as my vice governor,” Defensor said.

In response, Garin described Defensor’s nine-year stint as governor as “a time of peace, dedicated and fruitful work, recognizance (sic) of responsibilities and honest transactions and liquidations.”

PROGRAMS OF GOVERNMENT

Defensor said his programs will focus on developing additional sources of power, water and environmental protection.

Defensor will also conduct a reevaluation of the province’s health programs and hospitals.   

“We will also craft a comprehensive development plan to keep up with the changing times in our province,” he added.

Garin said one of his thrusts is on agriculture, particularly the establishment of an animal and plant laboratory.

Garin said he is concerned with the lack of facilities that will help Iloilo farmers diagnose animal and plant diseases.

SHOW OF FORCE

The declaration also served as a show of force, a coalition of major political sectors in Iloilo.

Aside from the Garins, who rule the 1st congressional district, Rep. Ferjenel Biron, Vice Gov. Rolex Suplico and former congressman Licurgo Tirador lent support to the Defensor-Garin tandem.

A total of 33 Iloilo mayors have committed to support Defensor’s candidacy even if his chief opponent, Barotac Viejo Mayor Raul Tupas, is the incumbent president of the League of Municipalities of the Philippines in Iloilo.

Reportedly, the Syjuco couple – TESDA Director General Augusto and incumbent Rep. Judy – will support the Defensor-Garin tandem despite their falling out with Philippine Coconut Authority Administrator Oscar Garin.

Oscar Garin ran for governor in 2001 against Gov. Tupas but lost.

The Garins attributed the defeat to Augusto Syjuco’s sudden change of heart and turned his support to Tupas.

Another “surprise supporter” in the Defensor-Garin tandem is Board Member Rodolfo “Boy” Cabado who has been identified with the Tupas group.

Cabado said there is nothing shocking in his decision to support Defensor as their friendship goes a long way back when they belonged to the same law office before.

Cabado said Defensor has always been his ally throughout his political career.

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By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

NO politician will administer the P8-billion Paglaum Fund, according to House Majority Floor Leader Arthur Defensor Sr.

 

Defensor (3rd district, Iloilo) said a multi-agency commission will handle the disbursement of the fund which will be used to rehabilitate areas in Western Visayas devastated by typhoon Frank last year.

 

The Region 6 Rehabilitation and Development Commission will be headed by Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro being the National Disaster Coordinating Council chair, based on House Bill No. 5604.

 

HB 5604 is the proposed supplemental budget for the Paglaum Fund. It was recently approved by the House of Representatives and is now pending in the Senate.

 

The commission members are: Regional Development Council chair; Cabinet Officer for regional development (CORD); Secretary of Agriculture; Secretary of Budget and Management; Secretary of Social Welfare and Development; Secretary of Education; Secretary of Health; Secretary of Public Works and Highways; National Electrification Administration administrator; National Housing Authority general manager; and Presidential Assistant for Western Visayas.

 

The CORD for Western Visayas is Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez Sr.

 

Rep. Niel “Jun-Jun” Tupas Jr. (5th district, Iloilo) earlier said Gonzalez should not become a member of the commission. He also fears that his district will not partake from rehabilitation fund.

 

The Tupases accused Gonzalez as the brains behind the attempt to dismiss Governor Niel Tupas Sr. from office in 2007 for alleged graft.

 

The commission shall be organized within 30 days after the supplemental budget for the Paglaum Fund is enacted and shall exist for 2 years after its organization.

 

Defensor said the fund will be released in batches through government agencies tasked to implement rehabilitation and relief projects.

 

“Politicians who lobby with Congress to handle the funds and implement projects in their constituencies should stop because the fund will only be coursed through the commission,” he added.

 

The Senate has passed in second reading its own version of the Paglaum Fund bill. The Senate bill is co-authored by Senators Edgardo Angara, Senate committee on finance chair; and Juan Miguel Zubiri, Senate majority floor leader.

 

“In a matter of two weeks, the Paglaum Fund bill will get Senate approval in two weeks time. The House and Senate versions of the bill are identical. But if there are differences in the two versions, such can be ironed out in the bicameral conference committee,” Defensor said.

 

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

HOUSE Majority Floor Leader Arthur Defensor Sr. dispelled insinuations that the Garins of the first congressional district of Iloilo will not ally with him in the 2010 gubernatorial race.

 

A crisp laugh was Defensor’s reply when told about the pronouncement of Iloilo provincial administrator Manuel Mejorada that former congressman Oscar Garin will shun a Defensor-Garin tandem in next year’s polls.

 

Defensor is reportedly eyeing the governor’s office while his likely running mate is Board Member Richard Garin, the son of Oscar who is now the administrator of the Philippine Coconut Authority. 

 

Mejorada based his analysis on the result of the 2004 gubernatorial race between Garin and Governor Niel Tupas Sr. in the third congressional district, Defensor’s constituency. The result showed that Tupas garnered 416,593 votes against Garin’s 254,751.

 

Mejorada said Garin could be hurting from the trouncing he got in the third district despite his alliance with Defensor.

 

Defensor said Mejorada is just trying to foment intrigue.

 

“That’s not true. Ga pang intriga lang si Mejorada. Has he talked to (Oscar) Garin?” Defensor said.

 

Defensor said his option to reclaim the top Capitol seat “is almost likely” next year.

 

“The Defensor-Garin tandem is 90 percent done. We will reveal the other details because we don’t want to telegraph our punches at this time,” he added.

 

Reports from the Garin camp said Board Member Richard Garin, his wife Rep. Jeannette Garin (1st district, Iloilo) and Rep. Ferjenel Biron (4th district, Iloilo) will support the Defensor-Garin tandem in the 2010 polls.

 

Board Member Garin said in an interview with Aksyon Radyo that Defensor should reach out to his father Oscar “because we want the family to make a unified decision.”

 

“I am grateful for the trust of Rep. Defensor but they should also talk to my father because he is our recognized leader. And he must be consulted because he has his own political plans,” BM Garin said.

 

NOT A LOSS

 

Defensor also pooh-poohed the looming alliance of former vice governor Roberto “Obet” Armada with Barotac Viejo Mayor Raul “Boboy” Tupas who is eyeing to succeed his father as governor.

 

Armada was identified with Defensor’s group, particularly during the foiled suspension of Governor Tupas January 2007. 

 

“We will not lose anything if Obet aligns with the Tupases. It’s his own decision,” Defensor said.    

 

He also denied reports that he abandoned Armada in the 2007 gubernatorial polls. “That’s not true. Intriga lang na kag indi salapakun nga istorya.”

 

 

THREE-CORNERED RACE 

 

Defensor believes that a three-cornered race in the third congressional district will benefit his son, Board Member Arthur Defensor Jr.

 

BM Defensor, former agrarian reform secretary Rene Villa and lawyer Zafiro “Boy” Lauron are touted as contenders in the third district.

 

The older Defensor said they are ready to face those who will challenge them next year.

 

“We don’t care if how many (candidates) will run in the third district. Given the quality of our leadership, my accomplishments and the qualifications of my son, he will win,” Defensor said.

 

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

THE House of Representatives will be compelled to pass a P2.5-billion supplemental budget for the 32 additional party list representatives.

 

House majority floor leader Arthur Defensor Sr. said the salaries, allowances and pork barrels of the additional party list representatives were not included in the 2009 national budget.

 

The Supreme Court the other day added 32 more party list seats in the House after ordering the Commission on Elections to follow a new formula for allotting party-list seats.

 

Under the 2009 national budget, the House allocated P3.9 billion in operating funds.

 

Since each congressional office is allocated P350,000 a month, the 32 new offices would cost P134.4 million annually.

 

Each of the new party-list representatives would also need around P70 million in pork barrel funds per year, for a total of P2.24 billion.

 

Defensor said the SC decision will also result in space problems for the House.

 

“We have to look for additional office spaces for the new representatives. We have no more vacant space in the plenary hall at the Batasan Complex. The South Wing expansion is still under construction,” Defensor said.

 

The P700-million expansion project which includes a four-storey building will be completed next year.

 

The SC decision also spawned legal questions since the 1986 Constitution only provides 250 seats for the House, Defensor said.

 

Accommodating 32 new seats would bring the total number of House members to 270 aside from the creation of 192 additional co-terminus positions.

 

Defensor said they don’t expect the SC to reverse its ruling on the allocation of party-list seats thus “we should be ready that the House membership will increase.”

 

The House membership is expected to further swell after the Committee on Revision of Laws approved Wednesday morning a bill seeking to create 50 new congressional districts and increase the constitutional ceiling to 300 seats.

 

The bill was filed by Iloilo City Rep. Raul Gonzalez Jr. who is pushing for the creation of another congressional district in the city.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

THE rehabilitation of Iloilo in the aftermath of the destructive flood spawned by typhoon Frank last June 21 will begin next year as the House of Representatives committee on appropriations has approved the P8-billion Panay rehabilitation fund.

 

Rep. Arthur Defensor Sr. (3rd district, Iloilo) said the rehabilitation fund is in the form of a supplemental budget which was approved by the committee on appropriations chaired by Antique Rep. Exequiel Javier.

 

Defensor said bulk of the funds will go to the city and province of Iloilo which were severely damaged by the typhoon.

 

“In my district alone, a total of 10 bridges were affected, four of which were totally damaged. There are no specific allocations in the supplemental budget but we have a tentative list of probable projects. We will evaluate these probable projects and prioritize those that must implemented. Then we will make the program of works for the projects,” he said.

 

Defensor, who is the House majority floor leader, said the funds will be taken from the simplified net income tax system which is expected to raise P12 billion.

 

The supplemental budget will have to hurdle past the House plenary before it is transmitted to the Senate for approval.

 

Defensor said he will ask President Gloria Arroyo to certify the passage of the budget as urgent so the rehabilitation can start.

 

“Hopefully the House can pass the budget in the plenary before we go on break next week. And we expect the Senate to pass it January 2009 so we can start the rehabilitation March or April,” Defensor said.

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