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By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE proposal to convert provincial and district hospitals into economic enterprise is another stumbling block to the passage of the Iloilo provincial government’s P1.3-billion budget for 2010.

Vice Governor Rolex T. Suplico said they need more time to study the executive department’s proposal to turn the Iloilo Provincial Hospital in Pototan town and 5 district hospitals into income-generating entities.

Suplico said the proposal is included in the 2010 budget which he finds strange as they have yet to pass a provincial ordinance allowing the conversion of the hospitals into economic enterprises.

“It’s already in the 2010 budget which is a case of putting the cart before the horse. We don’t have an ordinance on economic enterprises yet. So we need to study this proposal carefully before we can approve the 2010 budget,” Suplico said.

Suplico said the provincial will have to operate on a reenacted budget until they have passed a new budget next year.

The vice governor said provincial Board Members Rodolfo Cabado, June Mondejar and Shalene Hidalgo, who are sympathetic to Gov. Niel D. Tupas Sr., agreed to study further the proposed economic enterprise.

The opposition dominated Sangguniang Panlalawigan is wary that Tupas’ proposal will deprive poor patients of health services if hospitals charge fees on all services offered.

Suplico said provincial and district hospitals are supposed to help the poor, not earn profit from their operations.

Earlier, Board Member Arthur R. Defensor Jr., vice chair of the committee on appropriations, said they have no time left to pass the 2010 budget because the extra cash gift and allowances of volunteer health workers consumed their remaining session days.

In a statement, Provincial Administrator Manuel P. Mejorada said money-making is not the ultimate purpose of the plan to convert hospitals into economic enterprises.

“What the province hopes to achieve is empower our hospitals to become self-sustaining enterprises that can vastly improve their infrastructure and medical facilities to better serve the Ilonggo people. The concept of economic enterprises is enshrined in the Local Government Code of 1991. Local government unites are encouraged to embark on income generating activities to help raise revenues aside from taxes,” Mejorada said.

Mejorada said hospitals “will invest in private rooms, state-of-the-art equipment, well-trained hospital staff and efficient laboratories so that patients who can afford the services will patronize them.”

Such upgrading will require heavy investments, and the cost can be recovered through the long term with revenues generated from paying patients.

Poor patients will still enjoy affordable or free hospital services as the expected rise in income will help shoulder the cost for charity services.

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Rep. Gonzalez slams monopolistic pension fund

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

GOVERNMENT employees can secede from the Government Service Insurance Service (GSIS) which is under fire for delayed remittance of pensions and other problems.

Iloilo City Rep. Raul T. Gonzalez Jr. said he will help public employees who want to break away from GSIS and form their own insurance group that will cater to their needs.

Gonzalez broached this proposal in his letter to the Iloilo City Council which requested the congressman to initiate a congressional inquiry into the inability of GSIS to serve the needs of its members.

Gonzalez believes that GSIS’ monopolistic nature is the cause of its woes.

“I believe that GSIS is inefficient because it is a monopoly. The long-term solution to this problem is to break up its stranglehold on our civil servants by opening up the market to other players,” Gonzalez said in his letter dated October 13, 2009.

The congressman said the 500,000-strong public school teachers, which is 30% of government employees, can break away from the state pension fund and form their own insurance firm.

“The same is true with our uniformed personnel; if our soldiers and policemen want to secede from GSIS, I would lend them my support,” Gonzalez added.

Gonzalez said he already House Resolution No. 1049 last March 2009 which called for an inquiry on the computerization program of the GSIS and purported “glitch” in its system which resulted in poor service to its members.

The investigation focused on why GSIS’ computer system provided by IBM Corp. crashed which delayed the updating of members’ contributions and the retirees’ pensions.

On May 11, 2009, the resolution was referred to the House committee on government enterprises and privatization chaired by Rep. Felix Alfelor Jr. of Camarines Sur.

Alfelor has conducted several hearings which were attended by GSIS and IBM officials and cause-oriented groups such as Alliance of Concerned Teachers and Confederation for Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees.

Gonzalez said the committee has yet to come up with its report on the investigation.

The Iloilo City congressman said GSIS only offered short-term solutions such as fine-tuning its software and resolving the kinks in its computer system.

“During our last hearing, the two parties (GSIS and IBM) pledged to work double-time and gave verbal assurances that the current problems will be solved by December 2009 to January 2010,” Gonzalez said.

Several GSIS members have filed complaints against the state-pension fund for delayed pensions and other problems.

The Visyas Ombudsman also asked the GSIS to explain and resolve the delayed remittance of retirees’ pensions.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

DON’T act like clowns.

This was the stern warning of Iloilo City Vice Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog to members of the City Council when they hold their session.

Mabilog was reacting to the verbal tussle between Councilors Eduardo Peñaredondo and Antonio Pesina during their regular session Wednesday at the Iloilo City Terminal Market.

Mabilog said councilors should treat each other with dignity, respect and honor being elected officials of the city.

Mabilog, who was the acting mayor when the “word war” happened, said the presiding officer at that time should have stepped by calling for a recess to diffuse the tension.

“The presiding officer can also ask the sergeant-at-arms to remove the councilors from the session if they continue to harangue each other. Such conduct has no place in the council,” he added.

The presiding officer during the Peñaredondo-Pesina scuffle was Councilor Julienne Baronda.

Baronda banged the gavel to bring order to the session but in vain. Councilor Armand Parcon later called for a recess to diffuse the situation.

Parliamentary rules dictate that council members should address each other as honorable, gentleman or lady.

Councilors are also refrained from confronting each other during debates by directing their questions and comments to the presiding officer.

Mabilog said they sometimes allow intimate or endearing names to each other especially when their mood is light.

But he cautioned councilors to check their conduct during heated debates to avoid insults or confrontations.

‘TONY BOY VS KALBO’

The verbal joust between Peñaredondo, who is the majority floor leader, and the diminutive yet feisty Pesina happened when they discussed two agenda in the session.

The first round was when Councilor Julienne Baronda pushed for a committee investigation on the Metro Iloilo Water District’s operations.

Pesina objected to the idea of referring the matter to the committee on environment as there is no environmental concern in the issue.

Peñaredondo later clarified that Baronda’s proposal will be referred to the committees on environment and utilities.

Pesina also contended that the City Council has no power to penalize or investigate MIWD.

But Peñaredondo retorted that the council has the responsibility to look after public welfare, particularly on the issue of water supply.

The next round was during the deliberation on the amusement tax exemption sought by the Graciano Lopez-Jaena Foundation for its fund-raising activities.

Pesina, who chairs the committee on ways and means, had refused to grant the exemption as the foundation’s activities are not included in categories which the Local Government Code exempts from paying amusement taxes.

During the deliberation, Peñaredondo called Pesina “Tony Boy Pesina,” a label which irked the latter.

Pesina retaliated by calling Peñaredondo “Eduardo ‘Kalbo’ Peñaredondo,” which apparently referred to the latter’s balding top.

The verbal tussle extended to the media when Peñaredondo hit Pesina for being a showboat during the session which Political Science students from the University of Iloilo attended.

Peñaredondo said Pesina has the penchant to show off his debate and lawyerly skills when there are visitors during their session. He said “Tony Boy” is an endearing term which he also used in their previous sessions.

Peñaredondo threatened to knock down Pesina’s teeth and jaw if the latter jaunts his balding head outside the session.

Testingan ni Pesina nga ipanghambal ini sa guwa, kay masintak ang apipingig niya (Let Pesina taunt me outside because I will break his jaw),” Peñaredondo said over Aksyon Radyo.

Peñaredondo also taunted Pesina’s “sub par” performance in the bar exams.

Pesina hit back at Peñaredondo’s habit of butting in during a debate without asking the floor.

Pesina said he indeed called Peñaredondo “kalbo” or bald “but there was no malice in that as I was just telling the truth.”

The pint-sized councilor said Peñaredondo is “a big guy but a coward.”

“I behave during sessions…He likes to brag when there are visitors by disrupting a debate without asking permission from the presiding officer,” Pesina said.

Peñaredondo said he is allowed to interrupt discussions being the majority floor leader.

Heavy equipment are seen working at the house of Gov. Tupas in Brgy. Juanico, Banate, Iloilo sometime in April 2009

Heavy equipment are seen working at the house of Gov. Tupas in Brgy. Juanico, Banate, Iloilo sometime in April 2009

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Tupas may face graft for misuse of gov’t resources

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

ILOILO Gov. Niel D. Tupas Sr. is facing possible graft charges for misuse of government resources when he allegedly used government-owned heavy equipment to work in the construction of his rest house in Banate, Iloilo.

The latest controversy that Tupas figured in stemmed from video clips and photographs showing two province-owned dump trucks and a grader and bulldozer owned by the Banate municipal government working in Tupas’s house at Brgy. Juanico, Banate.

The said materials showed the trucks dumping filling materials in the work site while the grader and bulldozer were clearing the area.   

The green dump trucks are marked “Province of Iloilo” while the blue grader and bulldozer bear the official seal of the Banate municipal government.

In an interview with Rey Cabarles of RMN-Iloilo last Monday, Tupas said “the truck never got near my house.”

But in his next interview with Regan Arlos also of RMN-Iloilo yesterday, said the heavy equipment passed by his house and he only invited the drivers to have coffee and snacks.

He made this statement after Tupas was shown with copies of pictures of the heavy equipment.

In another interview with Bombo Radyo, Tupas said the heavy equipment were getting quarry materials from a quarry site near his house.

The governor established a house at Brgy. Juanico in preparation for his candidacy for congressman of the Iloilo 4th congressional district opposite incumbent Rep. Ferjenel Biron.

Early this year, Tupas transferred his voter’s registration to Brgy. Juanico.

Highway to new Iloilo Airport snagged by right-of-way claims

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) vowed to hasten the expansion of the national highway from Iloilo City to Sta. Barbara, Iloilo, particularly the provision of easement and sidewalks.

Engr. Juby Cordon, DPWH assistant regional director, said they are processing the compensation and relocation of residents who will be affected by the P568-million widening project.

Aside from widening, the project also includes the rehabilitation and asphalt overlay of the 13.10-kilometer Iloilo City-Pavia-Sta. Barbara. The contractor of the project is Iloilo Builders Corp.

The road was widened from two lanes to four lanes to facilitate easier vehicular traffic flow towards the new Iloilo airport in Cabatuan-Sta. Barbara area.

The project is encountering problems in the provision of easement and sidewalks, particularly the 2.74-kilometer road stretching from the Diversion Road in Mandurriao to Jaro, Iloilo City.

Cordon said the budget for the project included the easement and sidewalks but they have to acquire privately-owned lots for the road-right-of-way and utility lines.

The road is supposed to have a 1.5-meter shoulder aside from the sidewalk as part of the easement.

The lack of the road shoulder rendered the widening project useless as private and public utility vehicles park on the road posing hazards to traffic.

Pedestrians also traverse the lanes while houses are almost standing on the road.

Cordon said they have acquired 20 meters of easement from the center of the road but several residents are encroaching on the right-of-way.

“We also have to process the compensation and relocation of residents whose lots will be acquired for the easement. The DPWH has requested the help of the Iloilo City government in relocating these residents,” Cordon said.

Cordon said they also requested Panay Electric Co. to move its posts from the easement to facilitate the construction of the shoulders and sidewalk.

Cordon was one of the resource persons during a press conference of Bantay Lansangan or Road Watch.

Bantay Lansangan is a multi-sectoral group composed of non-government, private stakeholders, and official development partners to work with the DPWH and other government stakeholder agencies in enhancing the delivery of quality national road services.

Formed in 2007, the initiative seeks to increase transparency and access to information on the one hand, as well as monitor DPWH performance in delivering national road services.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE Sandiganbayan ordered the arrest of a former mayor of Barotac Nuevo, Iloilo relative to an alleged ghost barangay market project.

In a resolution issued September 16, 2009, the anti-graft court’s 4th Division ordered the issuance of a warrant of arrest against former Barotac Nuevo mayor Pedro “Indo” Hautea.

 Sandiganbayan Associate Justices Gregory S. Ong, Jose R. Hernandez and Rolando B. Jurado signed the resolution of the case docketed as SB-09-CRM-0150 to 0152 (People vs. Pedro Bayona Hautea, et. al.)

Hautea is now the incumbent vice mayor of Barotac Nuevo.

Hautea, along with Manuel Siaotong and Norma Lustria, were initially accused of violating the anti-graft law and malversation of public funds and property through falsification of public and official documents before the Office of the Ombudsman-Visayas.

The case is relative to an alleged ghost market project in Brgy. Tinurian, Barotac Nuevo.

On June 17, 2003, the Ombudsman resolved to indict Hautea of the charges but the latter sought for reconsideration.

Hautea’s plea was forwarded to the Ombudsman’s Office of the Special Prosecutor (OSP).

On May 22, 2009, Deputy Ombudsman for Visayas Orlando Casimiro approved the filing of charges for falsification of public/official documents against Hautea before the Sandiganbayan.

Hautea filed a second motion for reconsideration saying the case filed by the Ombudsman before the Sandiganbayan was different from the original suit.

But the Sandiganbayan said Hautea already benefited from the review undertaken by OSP on his case “which led to the filing of a lesser charge against him.”

“He (Hautea) can no longer be allowed to file a second motion for reconsideration after his first one has already been duly considered. In the mind of the Court, accused Pedro Bayona Hautea had already been afforded the measure of his right to a full and complete preliminary investigation. Accordingly, upon independent and judicious appraisal of the records, this Court finds probable cause for the issuance of the corresponding warrant of arrest against the accused,” the Sandiganbayan said.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

A MULTI-sectoral group monitoring road projects in the country will observe the construction of 20 major road constructions in Iloilo.

Vince Lazatin, executive director of Bantay Lansangan (Road Watch), said the Iloilo roads are part of the 40 projects included in the second round of monitoring in Visayas region.

Bantay Lansangan (BL) seeks to increase transparency and access to information and monitor Department of Public Works and Highway’s (DPWH) performance in delivering national road services.

The aim of the initiative is to reduce transaction costs for road construction and maintenance, improve response times for maintenance, increase road user satisfaction, and improve public perception of the DPWH.

BL is funded by the Australian Agency for International Development. 

During the first round of monitoring in Iloilo, BL’s report on the provincial P30-million road project in Brgy. Mambog, Oton prompted DPWH to order the contractor to remove and replace a defective portion of the road.

President Gloria Arroyo visited and inaugurated the road project last July 28, 2009.

Based on the BL monitoring report prepared by Iloilo CODE, a group of non-government organizations, cracks were found in a 4-kilometer portion of the road.

Engr. Juby Cordon, DPWH-6 regional director, their agency found cracks on the project even before BL started monitoring projects in Iloilo.

Cordon said the DPWH ordered the contractor, F. Gurrea Construction, to remove and replace the damaged portion at its expense.

Cordon said they appreciate BL’s effort as a partner of DPWH in implementing road projects.

According to I-CODE, this is the first time in 10 years that the DPWH issued a “remove and replace” order to a contractor.

“It’s good that there is a third party monitor that could attest to how we are trying to respond to citizens’ concerns and how we fight corruption since it will be self-serving if these statements would come from us,” Cordon said.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) must secure permits from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) for the clearing of the Dungon Creek banks in Iloilo City, according to Mayor Jerry Treñas.

Treñas said the DPWH, which is implementing the P50-million Dungon Creek dredging, may have forgotten to secure a permit from the DENR to clear the creek of mangroves as part of the project.

Last week, residents of Sitio Sooc in Brgy. Bolilao, Mandurriao slammed International Builders Corp. (IBC), a sub-contractor of the project, for uprooting 20-30 mangroves and other trees from a portion of the creek in their village.

Members of the Bolilao Empowerment of Neighborhoods Association (BOENAS) fear that the creek banks will be eroded and endanger residents if all mangroves are uprooted.

Initial report by the Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (Cenro) in Iloilo said an estimated P30,000 worth of mangroves were destroyed.

The contractor and the DENR have suspended the dredging project because of the issue. Another factor that delayed the project implementation is the relocation of squatters from the creek’s banks.

Treñas said the DPWH has sent a letter to DENR Sec. Lito Atienza to resolve problem.

The mayor said the project will resume when the snags are resolved to prevent flooding in Iloilo City.

Cenro head Bernabe Garnace said IBC should have used a barge to excavate or dredge the river bank of silt to prevent overrunning the mangroves and other endemic plants in the creek.

“The backhoe should have been placed in one barge while the other barge will haul the excavated materials. Placing a backhoe in the easement area will destroy the mangrove areas,” Garnace said.

The main contractor of the project is Cebu-based WT Construction which won the bidding conducted by the DPWH regional office.

Garnace said if proper procedures were observed, minimal destruction was done on the mangrove areas.

He added that the environmental destruction caused by the incident is bigger compared to the commercial value of the damaged mangroves.

“The environmental assessment is still ongoing in the affected mangrove site. What happened is uncalled for,” Garnace said.

Garnace said the DENR will call a technical conference to determine IBC’s liabilities on the destroyed mangroves. (With reports from PNA)

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE Office of the Ombudsman in Western Visayas will ask the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) to explain and resolve the delayed remittance of retirees’ pensions.

This after the Ombudsman received complaints from GSIS pensioners in the cities of Bacolod and Iloilo about the 8-month delay in their monthly pensions.

Evangeline Nuñal, Ombudsman graft investigator, said 79 pensioners from Bacolod City and 40 pensioners in Iloilo sent their complaints to the People’s Graftwatch in their respective areas. The Graftwatch then forwarded the complaints to the Ombudsman-Western Visayas office for investigation.

Nuñal said the case was assigned to her through a raffle by their office. Her first move is to send a letter to the GSIS regional and national offices asking for an explanation and resolution to the pensioners’ problem.

If GSIS does not respond to their first letter, Nuñal said they will send two more letters of the same nature.

If the state pension fund does not respond after three letters, the Ombudsman will launch a formal investigation which could lead to the filing of administrative and criminal cases.

Aside from the complainants in Bacolod and Iloilo, some pensioners in Antique and Capiz are also planning to send their own complaints to the Ombudsman through the Social Action Center of the Catholic Church.

GSIS pensioners recently complained that they did not receive their September pensions on the designated date.

Fe Panes, GSIS-Iloilo assistant manager, said the delay was caused by the “migration” or transfer of pensioners’ records to their new computer system.

GSIS is implementing an overhaul of its computer system after the software of its technology provider crashed.

Panes said GSIS sent text message broadcast to pensioners informing them about the delay in the remittance of their pensions.

But some pensioners said they did not receive any word from the state pension fund.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE mess besetting the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) regional office may have stemmed from the power struggle between its two top officials.

LTFRB Chairman Alberto Suansing said allegations of graft and corruption against Atty. Rommel Duron, LTFRB-6 hearing officer, surfaced when the latter applied for promotion as regional director of Western Visayas.

The current LTFRB-6 regional director is Atty. Porfirio Clavel who vowed to reveal what he knows about the alleged graft and corruption happening in his office.

Suansing said the panel that is looking into the accusations against LTFRB officials is hoping to finish its probe this week.

But Suansing said the investigation does not only cover Duron but all LTFRB officials and personnel.

“It is not only Duron who is the subject of complaints. I also received complaints against Clavel and other personnel. Based on the reports I received, even the plain utility worker might be involved in these alleged graft and corruption. That is the reason why the panel is investigating the whole regional office,” Suansing said.

Suansing said he ordered Clavel and Duron to continue discharging their duties and functions.

“But if this issue affects our operations in your region, we will not hesitate to revamp the whole regional office,” Suansing said.

The Alliance of Panay Taxi Operators and Drivers Association (Aptoda) and Association of Taxi Operators in Panay (Atop) had dumped administrative and criminal cases against Duron and former casual driver Henry Mamon for alleged extortion and misconduct.

The Archdiocese of Jaro also joined the fray after Archbishop Angel Lagdameo lent support to Atop and Aptoda.

An ecumenical service will be held today at Jaro Cathedral with Lagdameo delivering a homily on the evils of graft and corruption.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo 

PRESIDENT Gloria M. Arroyo got a taste of so-called “boulevards of broken dreams” when she visited two towns in the second congressional district of Iloilo Thursday.

The President first visited Pavia to check the Anilao Bridge and the Pagsangaan-Tigum-Cabugao Norte road concreting projects in the said town.

Mrs. Arroyo also checked the ongoing works in the Pavia portion of the Iloilo Flood Control Project which she ordered finished this year.

The Pagsangaan-Tigum-Cabugao Norte, which was damaged during typhoon Frank, became controversial late last year when Pavia Mayor Arcadio Gorriceta accused Rep. Judy Syjuco of allegedly trying to “hijack” the P28-million project.

Gorriceta, who claimed that he initiated the project, then was mad upon learning that the 4th Engineering District will rehabilitate the road using “dakal-dakal” (sand and gravel) instead of asphalting or concreting.

President Arroyo intervened by ordering the concreting of the 3.4-kilometer provincial road in Pavia.

From Pavia, Mrs. Arroyo went on a bumpy ride on board a coaster of the Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center to Alimodian, Iloilo where she led the groundbreaking rites for the Nichols Bridge project.

The President experienced the so-called “abortion roads” in Brgys. Aganan, Balabag, Pandac and Hibao-an, Pavia and San Jose, San Miguel en route to Alimodian.

The Department of Public Works and Highways deployed personnel who covered the potholes with sand and gravel in an attempt to afford the President with a smoother ride.

The road leading to San Miguel town proper has been a subject of complaints from residents and motorists after the asphalt pavement was damaged by big trucks carrying aggregates and filling soil.

The 4th Engineering District had promised to fix the road since last year but the road continues to hassle motorists and commuters to the Aleosan (Alimodian-Leon-San Miguel) area.

Interestingly, Rep. Syjuco and husband TESDA Director General Augusto Syjuco were part of the President’s party during the 3-hour visit.

In the briefing on the Nichols Bridge project, Mrs. Arroyo interrupted DPWH Usec. Rafael Yabut and told him to fast-track the project.

Yabut replied that they will work on a 24-7 basis to finish the bridge early.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

IS THE plan to create a second legislative district in Iloilo City losing steam?

 

Iloilo City lone district Rep. Raul Gonzalez Jr. said the chances of his proposal being passed before the election season sets in are getting slimmer as the Senate drags its feet on the measure.

 

Gonzalez is the proponent of House Bill 3672 seeking for the creation of the second legislative district in Iloilo City.

 

The first district will be composed of Jaro, Mandurriao and LaPaz while the second district is comprised of Arevalo, Molo and Iloilo City proper.

 

The House has approved HB 3672 and consequently passed House Resolution No. 4256 calling for the redistricting of the city.

 

The counterpart bill of the redistricting bill is still pending with the Senate committee on local governments chaired by Senator Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III.

 

Earlier, reports came out that Aquino will hold a public hearing on the measure Wednesday but the committee secretariat said the hearing is scheduled August or September 2009.

 

Gonzalez said the Senate is busy with its numerous investigations reason why his proposal cannot be acted upon as of this time.

 

Congress must pass the redistricting bill before the November 30, 2009 deadline for the filing of candidacy set by the Commission on Elections (Comelec).

 

Comelec regional director Dennis Ausan said the redistricting bill should be passed before the deadline so they can prepare the ballots should there be second congressional seat in Iloilo City.

 

Ausan said the Comelec will be printing a different kind of ballot to suit the poll automation next year, “thus we need to finalize the list of candidates who will run for various positions.”

 

But Gonzalez said there is still time for his measure to hurdle past Congress before the November deadline.

 

Gonzalez also warned the senators that Ilonggos will decide on their fate in the next election if they dilly-dally on the redistricting measure.

 

The congressman earlier said that senators who will support his measure will get the support of Ilonggos in 2010.

 

POLITICAL IMPLICATIONS

 

The non-passage of the redistricting bill is seen to affect the political configuration of the city.

 

Oppositors to the redistricting bill like lawyer Daniel Cartagena said the measure is a means to preserve the political leadership in the city.

 

Cartagena surmised the second legislative district will be given to Mayor Jerry Treñas who is serving his final three-year term until 2010.

 

“There is no way but up for Mayor Treñas, thus the second congressional district will be reserved for him to maintain his alliance with the Gonzalezes. But if the redistricting bill does not push through, the group might break up as the mayor might run for the lone congressional seat,” Cartagena said.

 

Cartagena said he has been opposing the bill because Iloilo City’s population is less than 500,000.

 

Citing the 1986 Constitution, Cartagena said a legislative district must have a population of at least 250,000.

 

Since Iloilo City’s population is more than 400,000 only, it cannot qualify for a second congressional district based on constitutional standards, Cartagena said.

 

Cartagena said it is also possible that the Gonzalezes are using the redistricting bill to make their possible political foes complacent.

 

“It has the semblance of false hopes to put at bay those who might think of challenging the Gonzalezes,” he added.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

ANTIQUE Governor Salvacion Z. Perez finds it unhealthy for a husband and wife to head two important regional offices in Western Visayas.

 

This is the reason why Perez lobbied with President Gloria Arroyo to transfer either Department of Tourism (DoT-6) regional director Edwin Trompeta or his wife, Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG-6) director Evelyn Trompeta, from Region 6 to somewhere else.

 

Perez asked for the couple’s transfer when the President visited Valderrama, Antique Thursday to give houses and assistance to victims of typhoon Frank last year.

 

In an interview with Aksyon Radyo, Perez said she does not like the couple serving as regional directors in the same region.

 

“Why unhealthy? Because the couple tends to defend each other when we scold them for not attending important affairs,” she said.

 

Perez said she was irked by the failure of Edwin Trompeta to join the One Visayas exposition in Cebu recently.

 

The lady-governor said she was disappointed when Western Visayas was not represented in the expo because of the DoT’s failure to join in the affair which was attended by provinces in Regions 7 and 8.

 

The One Visayas project was held side by side with the Visayas Arts Festival in Cebu.

 

“We invited him to join the One Visayas affair because it was an activity of the Regional Development Council (RDC) where DoT is a member. I was disappointed with their non-presence,” Perez said.

 

Perez also cited the refusal of DILG director Evelyn Trompeta to hold the suspension order against Iloilo Governor Niel Tupas Sr. in January 2007 as another reason why they want them out of the region.

 

The lady-governor said other governors in Region 6 support the removal of the Trompetas.

 

When asked who should be kicked out of Western Visayas, Perez said she wants Edwin Trompeta gone “because he is at fault, not his wife.”

 

Edwin Trompeta told The Daily Guardian he did not get any invitation to the One Visayas event organized by the private sector, not the RDC. 

 

“We were not invited by the organizer to join the planning or whatever activity that’s why we were not there,” he said.

 

The DoT regional chief said he was in Cebu during the One Visayas affair “but we attended another activity were the department was invited.”

 

Edwin said Perez could have summoned and scolded him for not attending the Cebu affair instead of lobbying for his removal from Western Visayas.

 

“Maybe the good governor does not want a DoT director who sleeps and impregnated the DILG director,” he said in jest.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

THE recent decision of the Supreme Court (SC) expanding the seats for party list groups technically allowed moves to increase the membership of the House of Representatives despite the 250-seat cap stipulated in the 1986 Constitution.

 

This is the personal view of Iloilo City Rep. Raul Gonzalez Jr. when asked about the implication of the SC ruling on his bid to add another congressional district in the city.

 

Gonzalez said the SC ruling prompted Senate president Juan Ponce-Enrile to withdraw his bill seeking to increase the House membership by 100 seats.

 

Gonzalez also filed a similar bill to expand the House membership to pave the way for the redistricting of some areas in the country, particularly Iloilo City.

 

In a press briefing in Manila, Enrile said there would be no need for a law increasing the number of members of the House of Representatives as the recent SC decision has already clarified the matter by issuing a new computation.

 

Enrile said the SC decision stated that the “formula referring to the ratio of party-list representatives to the total number of representatives allows for the corresponding increase in the number of seats available for party-list representatives whenever a legislative district is created by law.”

 

Enrile said, in effect, the Supreme Court decision has ruled that the enactment by Congress of laws creating legislative districts operates in itself to increase the number of seats in the House and that there is no need for the enactment of a general law increasing the number of seats beyond the 250 seats originally prescribed by the Constitution.

 

Gonzalez said the move to increase House membership was meant to accommodate some senators who raised concerns that they will violate the constitutional cap if they pass individual redistricting bills pending in Congress.

 

“But with the recent Supreme Court decision to add more 32 party list (solos), there is no more reason for some senators to be concerned or delay the individual redistricting bills. The SC already showed them that we can expand the House membership,” Gonzalez said in a phone interview.

 

The Supreme Court 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.

 

The SC said the number of seats available to party-list representatives will be computed from the number of legislative districts.

 

According to the court, there are 220 district representatives and 55 seats available for party-list representatives. Fifty-five is 20 percent of 220.

 

“Because of the SC decision, there is no need to muddle or delay the process. The ball is with the Senate ever since,” Gonzalez said.

 

Gonzalez’s bill seeks to regroup all barangays in the Jaro, LaPaz, Lapuz and Mandurriao as the first congressional district, while all barangays comprising City Proper, Molo and Arevalo shall compose the second congressional district.

 

The redistricting of Iloilo City is seen to benefit the metropolis because of double pork barrel allocation.

 

But political observers said the move is meant to avoid a confrontation between the Gonzalezes and Mayor Jerry Treñas in the 2010 congressional race.

 

Treñas is serving his last three-year term until next year.

 

Oppositors to the redistricting bill said Iloilo City is not qualified for another congressional district because its population is less than 500,000. The Constitution stipulates that a congressional district must have at least 250,000 population.

 

Additional seats in the House will also mean additional expenditures for the government.

 

But Gonzalez said his bill has satisfied all the requirements, especially the population count based on a precedent case in Makati City, Mariano vs Commission on Elections, which was decided by the SC on March 7, 1995.

 

The ruling penned by then Justice Renato Puno and concurred by then Chief Justice Hilario Davide said the legislative district of a city or province can be increased if it has met the minimum population requirement of 250,000.

Ombudsman to summon execs of 26 gov’t agencies

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

THE Office of the Ombudsman will summon the officials of 26 government agencies in the city and province of Iloilo to explain why their respective official vehicles were on the road last weekend.

 

Ferdinand Bauzon Jr., O-Plan Red Plate Task Force-Iloilo City team leader, said they were able to apprehend 13 government vehicles during their operation April 4. Out of the 13 apprehensions, 11 were found to have violated certain rules governing the use of government vehicles.

 

The task force apprehended the vehicles during roadside inspection and monitoring in malls, restaurants, recreational areas and airports in the city and province.

 

Bauzon said violations ranged from lack of official trip ticket, improperly accomplished trip tickets and trip tickets not serially numbered as mandated by Administrative Order No. 239 issued last September 15, 2008 which prohibits the use of government vehicles for purposes other than official business.

 

Other violations include vehicles that have no “For Official Use Only” marking, lack of official logo and/or name of agency, delinquent registration and lack of certificate of registration and official receipt.

 

Bauzon said they also observed that some of the apprehended government vehicles used illegal commemorative plates or don’t have registration plates.

 

In Iloilo province, 19 government vehicles were apprehended for going out on a weekend. A total of 15 vehicles were found to have violations.

 

S/Supt. Ricardo dela Paz said most of the apprehended vehicles in the province did not have official trip tickets. 

 

“The apprehended vehicles belonged to the Philippine Army, local government units and national government agencies,” dela Paz said.

 

Some of those who will be summoned by the Ombudsman are officials of the Department of Public Works and Highways, General Services Office of the Iloilo Provincial Government, Mines and Geosciences Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, National Power Corp. based in Cebu, Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board, the municipal governments of Pavia, San Enrique and Leganes in Iloilo and Panay in Capiz and Iloilo State College of Fisheries-Barotac Nuevo campus.

 

Engr. Rolando Asis, DPWH regional director, was apprehended by the task force in Brgy. Tagbac, Jaro while riding his office vehicle.

 

The task force said the trip ticket shown by Asis’s driver was good for April 1 to 15 which is inappropriate. The tickets also did not have specific destinations.

 

Asis said he was inspecting government projects in Capiz when apprehended by the task force.

 

“I go out to inspect projects even on weekends. I use the office vehicle when conducting the inspections. When I go on personal trips, I use my own car,” Asis said.

 

The Ombudsman will determine if charges will be filed against government officials who violated the rules on usage of government vehicles.

 

The task force is composed of the Ombudsman, Land Transportation Office, Commission on Audit, Philippine National Police, Civil Service Commission and the Philippine Information Agency. (With reports from PIA-6)

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