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By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THERE’S a 50-50 chance that Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda) Director General Augusto Syjuco will reclaim his old seat in the 2nd congressional district of Iloilo.

Syjuco said one of the factors that might compel him to run for congressman in 2010 is the health of his wife, incumbent Rep. Judy Jalbuena-Syjuco.

Syjuco said the congresswoman underwent hip surgery recently which affected her mobility.

“Her condition will definitely be a factor. But we have not decided yet. Everything is still 50-50 as of this time. Rep. Syjuco is getting stronger by the day,” he said.

Syjuco was reportedly being eyed to run for Senator under the Partido Lakas-Kampi-CMD but he was not included in the slate during the party’s national convention Thursday.

Executive Eduardo Ermita on Wednesday said Syjuco will quit Tesda to run for congressman in the 2nd district.

Political observers said Syjuco will run because of the candidacy of Pavia Mayor Arcadio Gorriceta and Ramoncito “Citoy” Arenas for congressmen.

But Syjuco said he is not threatened by Gorriceta and Arenas even as he taunted the capabilities of his potential rivals.

“I guess the Arenases should do some studying first because they have many things to know about the 2nd district. Imagine Mr. Arenas saying that Pototan is in the 2nd district when it is in the 3rd district. He also said that Panay Electric Co. is the distributor of power in our district when it’s Iloilo Electric Cooperative,” he said.

Syjuco added that Arenas is more of a threat to the people of the 2nd district than to his political career.

As regards Gorriceta, Syjuco said the mayor is losing Pavia to Lucille Villanueva.

Villanueva’s name surfaced as Syjuco’s mayoral bet in Pavia when candles bearing her name and the Syjuco couple were distributed in the town last All Souls’ and Saints’ Days.

ON MEJORADA

Syjuco also clarified his side on the exclusion of Iloilo Provincial Administrator Manuel “Boy” Mejorada from the voters’ list of Alimodian, Iloilo.

Mejorada accused Syjuco of instigating Ireneo Mondero to destroy the former’s nipa hut at Brgy. Pajo, Alimodian and to file the exclusion case to prevent the capitol executive from running in the 2nd district.

“I admit that Ireneo Mondero is my friend for 13 years. But our friendship is not the issue but Boy Mejorada’s debt to Mondero. The reason why his so-called house was destroyed is that he failed to pay for the lot of Mondero,” he added.

Syjuco also described Mejorada as an “aswang” (flesh-eating ghoul) for transferring his address from one place to another.

“He flew from Capiz to Sta. Barbara but he never landed. He transferred to Pavia but he was excluded. He tried to go to Alimodian but he was also excluded.”

Mejorada initially hurdled past the exclusion case filed with the Municipal Circuit Trial Court (MCTC)-Aleosan.

But the Regional Trial Court reversed the MCTC’s decision and ordered Mejorada’s deletion from the voters’ list of Brgy. Pajo.

In an interview with Bombo Radyo-Iloilo, Mejorada said the Syjucos should allow him to run if they don’t perceive him as a threat to their rule in the 2nd district.

Mejorada said he does not mind being called an aswang because it connotes that he is a genuine Ilonggo.

“The Syjucos landed on Iloilo from Makati,” he added.

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By Francis Allan L. Angelo 

TWO Iloilo provincial officials traded barbs over reassignments and purported transfer of the media lounge to the old capitol building.

Marilou Sumbing, former Public Information Office (PIO) chief, said she has been transferred to the Provincial Tourism Office headed by Atty. Jonar Pueblo. Her transfer is contained in Reassignment Order No. 005.

While Gov. Niel Tupas Sr. issued the transfer order, Sumbing said Provincial Administrator Manuel Mejorada had a hand in her reassignment.

Sumbing claimed that four PIO personnel were also reassigned to the said office.

She said her assignment will result in the transfer of the media lounge from the second floor of the new capitol building to the third floor of the old building.

“We cannot even promise you if there will be a media lounge in the old capitol building because of space limitations,” Sumbing added.

Sumbing also claimed that the Hospital Operations Management Service will take over the PIO space in the new capitol.

Mejorada said Sumbing was lying regarding the transfer of the media lounge.

“The media lounge will stay in the new capitol building. We will put a round table in the PIO where we can have coffee and talk about issues in the provincial government,” Mejorada said in an interview with Aksyon Radyo.

Mejorada said he will serve as PIO head after Sumbing’s reassignment.

Sumbing and Mejorada had clashed before when the latter allegedly tried to use the P200,000 capital outlay allocated to the PIO.

Sumbing told Tupas about Mejorada’s move, prompting the latter to retain the money with the PIO.

Mejorada said Sumbing was transferred to the tourism office because of her sub par performance as PIO chief.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

THE National Electrification Administration (NEA) might release next week its recommendation on the controversial power supply agreement (PSA) between Iloilo Electric Cooperative (Ileco) 3 and an independent power producer.

 

Atty. Omar Mayo, who headed the NEA fact-finding team, said they have finished their investigation on the deal between Ileco 3 and Applied Research Technologies Phils., Inc (Artech).

 

Mayo said they will soon forward their recommendations to NEA Administrator Edita Bueno.

 

“The recommendations and actions of the NEA board of administrators might be out next week,” he said.

 

Mayo said their investigation focused on the PSA between Ileco 3 and Artech allegedly tainted with bribery as claimed by former Judge Mateo Baldoza, Ileco 3 board president.

 

Mayo said part of their evidence is the May 5 interview of Baldoza with Joel Tormon of Aksyon Radyo.

 

Baldoza claimed in the said interview that Governor Niel Tupas Sr. handed him an envelope containing P75,000 cash during a meeting between Ileco 3 and Artech officials April 17 at the governor’s mansion in Jaro, Iloilo City. 

 

Baldoza said he received another envelope containing P75,000 cash from a female Artech employee during the Ileco 3 board meeting in Iloilo City last April 21.

 

Mayo said they also included the sworn affidavit of Ileco 3 director Rene Arandilla who corroborated Baldoza’s claim.

 

Arandilla said Baldoza showed him the envelope he allegedly received from the Artech employee last July 21.

 

Arandilla said he counted P75,000 cash inside the envelope. Baldoza later told him to get P10,000 because he will give the rest to the church but Arandilla refused.

 

Arandilla said he was not present in the meeting at Tupas’ house although he received information that money changed hands during the gathering.

 

After the May 5 interview, Baldoza modified his statement by denying that Tupas gave him money during the April 17 meeting with Artech officials.

 

Last Monday, Baldoza appeared before the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) which is investigating the deal due to the complaints of two Ileco 3 consumers.

 

Baldoza said he told NBI investigator Arnold Diaz the actual events surrounding the PSA, particularly the money and pressure they received from Tupas and Artech.

 

Baldoza said his statements to the NBI are similar to his May 5 interview with Aksyon Radyo and revelations to Presidential Assistant Raul Banias.

 

Atty. Norberto Posecion, Baldoza’s legal counsel and former classmate, said the ex-judge made an affidavit relative to the Ileco 3-Artech deal “but he has yet to sign it.”

 

Posecion said the content of the affidavit were similar to Baldoza’s first statement regarding the Ileco 3-Artech deal.

 

“I told him to make sure that everything he wrote in the affidavit is true to avoid any complication,” Posecion said.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

ILOILO Governor Niel Tupas Sr. indeed arranged the meeting between the Iloilo Electric Cooperative (Ileco) 3 board of directors and officials of an independent power producer (IPP) at his house in Jaro, Iloilo City last April 17.

 

In an interview in the weekly cable TV program Serbisyo Publiko hosted by Councilor Perla Zulueta Sunday, provincial administrator Manuel Mejorada said Tupas initiated the meeting between the Ileco 3 board and Applied Research Technologies Phils., Inc. (Artech) to address the looming power crisis in Iloilo.

 

“It is the habit of Governor Tupas to expedite matters when things go slow. He was worried that by 2010, Ileco 3 will have no more power supply because its transition power contract with the National Power Corp. will expire December 2010,” Mejorada said.

 

Engr. Reynaldo Uy, Artech president, said Ileco 3 director Asur Salcedo invited him to meet the board headed by former judge Mateo Baldoza at Tupas’ house in MV Hechanova, Jaro last April 17.

 

Uy said the meeting was set after Tupas learned that the board has yet to act on Artech’s 25-year power supply agreement after three months.

 

“Governor Tupas asked the board about our deal and president Baldoza said the offer was good. The governor then said that we must settle the matter because he will be leaving for his office,” Uy said.

 

Uy said the board told him that they will meet April 21 to decide which IPP to choose.

 

The Artech official denied that money changed hands during the meeting at Tupas’ house and the April 21 meeting at Fine Rock Hotel in Iloilo City.

 

Uy’s denial contradicts the claims of Baldoza that he received money from Artech during the two meetings.

 

Baldoza initially implicated Tupas as the one who handed him the money. But he later modified that statement saying it was a female Artech employee who gave him an envelope containing P75,000 cash.

 

Baldoza said he wanted more time to study Artech’s offer because the comparative study of their Technical Support Department showed that the IPP’s generation rate of P8.per kilowatt-hour 56 is expensive compared to other power producers.

 

But Uy said their rates are lower compared to other IPPs that made offers to the Panay-Guimaras power consortium – P6.64 per kWh for the diesel plant and P5.90 per kWh for the biomass plant.

 

Artech will supply power to Ileco 3 from a diesel-fired power plant starting December 2010. Between 2010 and 2013, the firm will construct a 5-megawatt biomass plant which will operate as baseload power plant.

REGISTERED VOTER Iloilo provincial administrator Manuel "Boy" Mejorada signs the Comelec registration logbook in Alimodian, Iloilo last Friday after completing the requirements for transferring his voter registration to Barangay Pajo, Iloilo. Mejorada said he is ready to challenge incumbent 2nd district Rep. Judy Jalbuena Syjuco in the 2010 congressional elections now that his residency cannot anymore be questioned.

REGISTERED VOTER Iloilo provincial administrator Manuel "Boy" Mejorada signs the Comelec registration logbook in Alimodian, Iloilo last Friday after completing the requirements for transferring his voter registration to Barangay Pajo, Iloilo. Mejorada said he is ready to challenge incumbent 2nd district Rep. Judy Jalbuena Syjuco in the 2010 congressional elections now that his residency cannot anymore be questioned.

 

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

ILOILO Provincial Administrator Manuel Mejorada is prepared to run for congressman in the second congressional district.

 

Mejorada signified his intention to join the congressional race in the second district after he transferred his voter’s registration record to Brgy. Pajo, Alimodian, Iloilo from Brgy. Amparo, Pavia.

 

Mejorada said allegations of graft and corruption in second district prompted him to join the 2010 race.

 

Rep. Judy Syjuco, wife of Tesda Director General Augusto “Bboy” Syjuco, is the incumbent congressman of the district.

 

Mejorada also said that Brgy. Pajo is close to his heart because of the warm welcome he received and the potential of the area in terms of tourism and agriculture.

 

“I built a house in Brgy. Pajo and maintains a small vegetable farm. I bought new agricultural technologies there to help the farmers,” Mejorada said in an interview with Ronel Sorbito of RMN-Iloilo.

 

Mejorada was delisted from the voters’ list of Pavia in 2007, a moved he attributed to the Syjucos when news rang that he was interested to run for congressman.

 

The former mediaman-turned-capitol official had exposed alleged anomalous transactions involving the Syjucos.

 

“If they petition to kick me out of Alimodian, that might mean that they are becoming jittery because of my intention to run,” Mejorada said.

 

Mejorada was earlier touted to run for vice governor in tandem with Barotac Viejo Mayor Raul Tupas who is running for governor.

 

INVESTORS’ HAVEN Senate Bill 3619 filed by Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago offers incentives to investors in Iloilo. (Photo by Tara Yap)

INVESTORS’ HAVEN Senate Bill 3619 filed by Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago offers incentives to investors in Iloilo. (Photo by Tara Yap)

 

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

SENATOR Miriam Defensor-Santiago has filed a bill establishing a special economic zone (SEZ) and free port in Iloilo province.

 

Santiago’s proposal is embodied in Senate Bill No. 3169 now pending with the Senate committees on economic affairs, ways and means, local government units, and finance.

 

Iloilo provincial administrator Manuel Mejorada said they received Wednesday an invitation from the Senate committees to attend the hearing on the bill yesterday.

 

Mejorada said they were supposed to attend the hearing but they had no time to prepare for the travel.

 

Mejorada said Governor Niel Tupas Sr. sent a letter to Santiago expressing full support for the legislative initiative

 

Tupas said the SEZ-free port bill is beneficial because “unless Iloilo can offer the same advantages and benefits that Subic and Clark does, big manufacturers will find little incentive to bring huge capital to the province.”

 

Tupas said the bill could push the province to greater heights of glory and reclaim its old title as the “Queen City of the South”.

 

Section 3 of SBN 3169 states that the SEZ and free port, which will be known as Iloilo Special Economic Zone, shall cover the entire area embraced by the province of Iloilo.

 

Economic zones attract local and foreign investors because of tax holidays and exemption from customs duties for imported equipment.

 

One of the incentives offered by the bill is income tax holiday from 4 to 8 years depending on the category of the investor.

 

Other incentives are the net operating loss carryover (NOLCO) during the first three years from start of commercial operations; imposition of a 5% tax rate on gross income earned by the investor; accelerated deprecation; capital equipment and raw material incentives.

 

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 Commission on Audit (COA) has disallowed the transaction on the P1.1-million autoclave sterilizer purchased by the Iloilo provincial government for the Passi City district hospital.  

 

In a notice of disallowance issued November 11, 2008, state auditor 4 Haydee P. Pasuelo said they found discrepancies in the deal.

 

“Ocular inspection conducted by the COA-Technical Services Office on August 21, 2008 disclosed that the unit is not in accordance with the duly approved Purchase Order, has no nameplate indicating the name of the manufacturer, origin of the unit, brand name/model and power consumption, and brochure submitted does not indicate the product patent number. It was also found out to be defective; thus the actual test was not performed at the time of the inspection,” the notice said.

 

Pacific Trade House won the contract for the autoclave sterilizer which conked out when personnel of the Don Valerio Palmares Sr. Memorial District Hospital operated the machine.

 

The audit body also found “existence of fraud” in the procurement process based on the disbursement voucher and other supporting papers.

 

“The bidding participated in by Pacific Trade House and CDC Pharmacy showed that there was collusion between the two bidders. The disbursement voucher revealed that the person who received the check for payment in favor of Pacific Trade House was the authorized representative of CDC Pharmacy in the name of Ma. Cherry D. Alaban. It was also noted that the delivery receipt, signed by the Nurse-in-Charge supposedly issued by Pacific Trade House, bears the Taxpayer’s Identification Number (TIN) of a Dione Trading. Further investigation revealed that this Dione Trading (which delivered the autoclave sterilizer) and CDC Pharmacy are owned by only one person,” COA said.

 

COA said the discrepancies violated procurement and accounting rules.

 

Who are liable for the controversial transaction?

 

COA said the persons legally responsible for the deal are general services office chief and bids and awards committee (BAC) chair Ramie Salcedo, budget officer and BAC vice chair Elena Lim, provincial engineer Gracianito Lucero, former provincial treasurer Melba Sullivan, provincial administrator Manuel Mejorada, and executive assistant Levy Buenavista.       

 

Also held liable were Governor Niel Tupas Sr. for approving the transaction and Mercedes Sibug as supplier.

 

In his privilege speech delivered during the provincial board’s regular session Tuesday, Iloilo Vice Governor Rolex Suplico said the persons tagged by COA to the questioned deal are “the ‘usual suspects’ in zarzuelas with these particular plots involving scams and scandals.”

 

“These ‘usual suspects’ may have already attained the status of ‘stars’ or even ‘superstars’ in their own right,” Suplico added.

 

Suplico urged the Sangguniang Panlalawigan “to condemn the sterilizer scam in the strongest possible terms; to refer the matter to the appropriate committee for investigation; and to do any act necessary to stop graft and corruption in the Iloilo provincial government.”       

 

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

A THREE-man panel will investigate the alleged involvement of two Iloilo provincial prosecutors in the illegal drug trade.

 

Regional State Prosecutor Domingo Laurea said Department of Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez Sr. ordered the probe following the controversial “Balasan Boys” exposé of top Capitol officials against Iloilo Provincial Prosecutor’s Office (IPPO) chief Bernabe Dusaban and Prosecutor Ricaflor Obsequio.

 

Laurea said he will head the investigating panel with members Capiz Provincial Prosecutor’s Office chief Rodolfo Beluso Iloilo City Prosecutor’s Office chief Peter Baliao.

 

The investigation will begin Wednesday next week and will focus on the discovery of the names of Dusaban and Obsequio in a piece of paper inside the wallet of suspected drug pusher Henry Caspillo.

 

Laurea said they will also probe the failure of the IPPO to submit to his office the drug cases against Caspillo and Rolly Tiope for review. The DOJ requires automatic review of all dismissed drug cases handled by prosecutors.

 

Dusaban and the IPPO got flak from Iloilo Governor Niel Tupas Sr. for dismissing the non-bailable charges against Caspillo and Tiope who were arrested for alleged drug pushing in Balasan, Iloilo last year.

 

Tupas also revealed the names Dusaban and Obsequio were found inside Caspillo’s wallet.

 

The Capitol then sent a letter to Dusaban threatening to withdraw the P1.7-million financial aid to the IPPO.

 

Iloilo Rep. Niel “Jun-Jun” Tupas Jr. (5th district) also called for a congressional inquiry on the “Balasan Boys” controversy which will begin next month.

 

Dusaban said he is ready to face the congressional probe to clear his name of any involvement in the illegal drug trade.

 

UNCONVINCED

 

But Iloilo provincial administrator Manuel “Boy” Mejorada said he remained “unconvinced” that DOJ secretary Raul Gonzalez is dead serious about uncovering wrongdoings in his own backyard.

 

“I think that Secretary Gonzalez is just forced by circumstances and the revelation that Provincial Prosecutor (Bernabe) Dusaban violated DOJ regulations that require an automatic review of dismissals made on drug charges that are non-bailable,” Mejorada said in a statement.

 

Just the same, Mejorada said the directive issued by Gonzalez is a “vindication” because it acknowledges that transgressions of the law have been committed in the handling of the so-called “Balasan Boys” cases.

 

The question now that should be asked is why there was apparent haste on the part of Dusaban to hand down the resolutions that allowed Caspillo and Tiope to post bail despite the strong evidence for non-bailable offenses, Mejorada said.

 

He said he finds it hard to believe that Dusaban could carry out the questioned acts “right in the backyard of the justice secretary.”

 

“It boggles my mind to think that a provincial prosecutor would be bold enough to do such wrongful acts unless he had the blessings of the boss,” he said.

 

Mejorada said the exposé has already caused a dramatic about-face in the manner by which Dusaban’s office is handling drug cases.

 

Just two weeks ago, Dusaban approved a resolution finding probable cause against a suspected pusher arrested for selling marijuana in Leon, Iloilo in just one week after the case was filed before his office, he said.

 

“We will continue to monitor the performance of the provincial prosecutor’s office in its disposition of drug cases,” he said.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

AFTER the hospitals equipment scam, the Iloilo Sangguniang Panlalawigan is set to investigate the purchase of plants for the landscaping of the Iloilo Rehabilitation Center façade in Pototan, Iloilo after the Commission on Audit (COA) found alleged irregularities in the transaction.

 

Vice Governor Rolex Suplico said they will base their investigation on the COA Audit Observation Memorandum dated November 4, 2008.

 

The memorandum signed by Haydee Pasuelo, COA audit team leader, and Maria Glenda Lim, COA regional cluster director, covers the purchase of landscaping plants worth P144,750.

 

The purchase was requested by the Provincial Agriculture Office (PAO) headed by Ildefonso Toledo while the supplier was Cleafar Enterprises.

 

The COA memorandum found out that the purchase order (PO) for the landscaping plants was “paid in full despite the incomplete delivery in the amount of P127,950.”

 

COA inspection of the deliveries of the plants conducted October 27, 2008 and November 4, 2008 showed there was partial delivery amounting to P16,800 only.

 

But per acceptance and inspection report (AIR) from the PAO, there was complete delivery February 14, 2008.

 

The COA said Toledo confirmed there was indeed incomplete delivery because the IRC area to be planted with the 150 square feet of Bermuda grass, 200 sq ft of Carabao grass and other ornamental plants was not yet ready.

 

“The area has yet to be filled with garden soil. All other plants included in the PO were also not delivered. It appears that there was an advance payment to the supplier in the amount of P127,950,” COA observed.

 

Section 88 of the Government Auditing Code of the Philippines strictly prohibits advance payments on government deals unless the goods and/or services were fully delivered by the supplier.

 

While the transaction happened in 2008, the budget was taken from the reenacted 2007 budget of the PAO for agricultural products worth P1.5 million.

 

The COA also found out in the bidding documents that owner of the winning supplier, Cleafar Enterprises, is a certain Ma. Cecilia Buenconsejo with business address at Brgy. Inagdangan Norte, Zarraga, Iloilo.

 

But in the delivery paper and receipt of payment, charge invoice and official receipt, the proprietor of Cleafar was identified as Jose Benjamin Pama with office address at Commission Civil Street, Jaro, Iloilo City.

 

Suplico said the discrepancies in the proprietorship and business address of the winning bidder “smells fishy.”

 

“Why is it that the owner and business address of the supplier in the bidding documents were different from the delivery and acceptance papers? We must find out what happened. And where are the rest of the undelivered items?” Suplico said.

 

The vice governor, who is at odds with his uncle Governor Niel Tupas Sr., also questioned the proposed landscaping of the IRC.

 

“What we need at the IRC are barbed wires, not ferns, grasses and ornamental plants. It would have been better if they bought vegetable seedlings for the inmates to plant and eat,” he added.

 

COA has issued a notice of disallowance on the landscaping plants transactions because of the incomplete delivery.

 

Among those cited as liable are General Services Office chief Ramie Salcedo and Provincial Administrator Manuel Mejorada for certifying that the delivery was complete; PAO chief Toledo for certifying that the items delivered conformed to the specifications and quantity stated in the purchase order; Governor Niel Tupas Sr. for approving the deal; Buenconsejo as payee; and Danny Baldemor and Rosario Catalan.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

WHO is at fault for the delay in the discussion on the financial assistance for barangay volunteer workers in the province of Iloilo?

 

The Sangguniang Panlalawigan was supposed to discuss during its session Monday the financial aid for more or less 10,000 barangay volunteers worth P23 million but the matter was not included in its calendar. Each volunteer will receive P2,000 under the aid package.

 

Governor Niel Tupas Sr. submitted a supplemental budget for the financial aid last week and he expected the SP’s committee on appropriations chaired by Vice Governor Rolex Suplico to act and approve the measure.

 

Suplico said he was not able to act on the supplemental budget because of the non-submission of the master list of barangay-based volunteers.

 

The vice governor said he needed the data to determine who will receive the financial aid given to volunteer workers annually.

 

But Marina Imperial, president of the province-wide Federation of Barangay Health Workers, said in a radio interview that she and other volunteer workers brought to Suplico’s office the thick folders containing the master list of volunteers Friday last week.

 

“But he declined to receive the documents,” Imperial told Aksyon Radyo-Iloilo.

 

Imperial’s statement was backed by Edith Judicpa, barangay health worker from Pavia.

 

Iloilo provincial administrator Manuel “Boy” Mejorada was quick to chastise Suplico for “distorting the truth” and “deliberately prolonging the anxiety” of these volunteers.

 

“This is a clear case of foot dragging as Suplico and his allies are looking for lame excuses not to approve the honorarium for the volunteers,” Mejorada said. “The big lie being peddled by Suplico was uncovered.”

 

Mejorada said Suplico and his allies could have granted the appropriation for the honorarium when the Sanggunian approved Appropriation Ordinance No. 2008-06 containing the 2008 annual budget.

 

Suplico clarified the issue with The Daily Guardian to dispel insinuations that he lied on the real reason why the approval of the supplemental budget was stalled.

 

The vice governor said while it is true that Imperial showed him the list last week, he returned the same for various reasons.

 

“There is only one list and I don’t want to lose it. The keeper of that list by law is the Provincial Health Office (PHO) which has jurisdiction over the barangay health workers. The PHO has to clean the list of those who died, those who left the country, those who ceased to be BHWs and those who are BHWs while at the same time are barangay service point officers, day care workers and barangay nutrition scholars,” he said.

 

Suplico said the PHO has to encode the list in a form that may be attached to the appropriation ordinance.

 

“As of noontime Wednesday, the PHO was still busy cleaning up the lost together with the officers of the BHW provincial federation. The allegation that I lied about the real reason for the delay in the approval of the financial aid is a malicious insinuation. It is a lie,” Suplico said.

 

The SP will again discuss the financial aid during its special session Friday.

 

Suplico said they will attach conditions to the appropriations ordinance especially the manner by which the aid will be released.

 

“We want the aid to be released in the towns, not here at the Capitol to avoid politicking and additional expenses on the part of the workers. Although we expect the governor to repeat what he did last year by vetoing the conditions then release the funds before we could override the veto,” Suplico said.

 

Mejorada said the volunteer workers prefer to get their financial aid at the Capitol “so they can go shopping after getting their allowance.”

 

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

ILOILO provincial administrator Manuel “Boy” Mejorada yesterday scoffed at what he described as a “desperate effort” of Suplico to gain sympathy and support in the face of a humiliating defeat over the province’s 2009 annual budget.

 

“He fails to understand that the basic flaw lies in him, and not in the veto exercised by Governor Niel Tupas over Appropriation Ordinance No. 2008-05,” Mejorada said.

 

Suplico yesterday sent a text message requesting Tupas to withdraw his veto on the P55-million hazard pay for public health workers.

 

Suplico said the governor should be concerned with the welfare of health workers who have been expecting what is due them.

 

The issue is the legality of the insertion of P55 million that Suplico “set aside or reserved” for the hazard pay of provincial health workers in the event the courts rule in their favor in civil cases filed against the Province, Mejorada said.

 

“Clearly, this issue is pending before the civil court, and it does not meet the definition of a statutory obligation as contemplated in the Local Government Code,” he said.

 

Mejorada said Suplico is trying to stir up emotions of health workers in a “desperate effort” to avoid blame for yet another legal debacle over the annual budget of the province.

 

He described Suplico’s move as “clutching at straws to prevent crashing down from a humiliating fiasco.”

 

Besides, the proper procedure is an override of the veto, and not for the governor to withdraw his veto, he added.

 

Mejorada said Suplico wants to “camouflage the rudimentary blunder” made as chairman of the Committee on Appropriations in crafting the 2009 annual budget of the province.

 

In his veto message, Tupas thumbed down the appropriation ordinance for not being in accordance with a basic requirement that appropriations must be clearly spell out the figures according to the allotment class.

 

What happened was that the ordinance lumped the entire amounts for each department without classifying the budget for personal services, maintenance and other operating expenses (MOOE) and capital outlay, he said.

 

“This is very embarrassing,” he said.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

THE Iloilo provincial government continues to deny receiving part of the controversial P728-million fertilizer fund even as the House and Senate grill its purported brains, former agriculture undersecretary Jocelyn “Joc-Joc” Bolante.

 

Provincial administrator Manuel “Boy” Mejorada said yesterday the provincial government refused a “very lucrative kickback” offer of 40 percent from a woman supplier.

 

Mejorada said the woman was trying to get the Capitol to submit a P10-million request for fertilizers sometime in March 2007 “but we steered clear of the fertilizer fund scam.”

 

“The moment the supplier told us that there was a 40 percent kickback in the transaction, we immediately said ‘no’ and asked her to leave,” Mejorada said.

 

Mejorada said the woman supplier, whose name he could no longer remember, had approached him with the necessary procurement documents already prepared and just awaiting the signature of Governor Niel Tupas Sr.

 

“She told me she could obtain the funding for the province through the Department of Agriculture, and all that we needed to do was to get Governor Tupas to sign the request for fertilizers,” he said.

 

However, Mejorada became suspicious about the liquid fertilizer that she was offering in the transaction and the “outrageous” offer of a 40-percent kickback. He quickly turned down the offer.

 

Mejorada said he informed Tupas about the anomalous offer. “The governor told me that I had done the right thing,” he said.

 

A few days later, the supplier went directly to see Tupas with the same offer, but the governor told her “to bring it elsewhere”.

 

Based on Commission on Audit reports, three congressional districts – 1st district, 2nd district and 3rd district – received allocations of P5 million each.

 

Bolante has again absolved President Arroyo in the fertilizer fund scam.

By Francis Allan A. Angelo

THE Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) will begin investigating next month the oppression charges filed against Iloilo Vice Governor Rolex Suplico.

Provincial Administrator Manuel Mejorada said the marathon investigation will begin November 11-14, 2008 at the DILG regional office.

Mejorada filed last February 7, 2008 administrative charges for oppression, misconduct in office and abuse of authority against Suplico.

The complaint was filed with the Office of the President but it was forwarded to the DILG for further investigation.

Mejorada alleged in his complaint that Suplico maliciously orchestrated the removal of the budget for his position in the botched 2008 annual budget.

The Iloilo provincial board, upon recommendation of Suplico as chairman of the appropriations committee, removed the items for salaries and wages of the provincial administrator, legal officer and two executive assistants from appropriation ordinance 2008-01-a.

Mejorada said not allocating a budget for his position “constitutes illegal dismissal” as he has been holding a “valid appointment” as provincial administrator. He said that co-terminus positions “depend on the trust and confidence of the appointing authority.”

Mejorada said the DILG central office will send an investigator who will handle the probe.

The DILG-6 regional office will act as facilitator by summoning the complainant, respondent and other resource persons, he added.

Suplico denied oppressing Mejorada by citing the comment of former Civil Service Commission (CSC) regional director Raymund Gonzales that the position of provincial administrator was “considered vacant” because the present Sangguniang Panlalawigan has yet to concur with the appointment of anyone for the said position.

Suplico said Mejorada’s July 27, 2004 appointment “expired with the assumption to office of new elected officials because he occupies a co-terminus position.”

The CSC under its new regional director, Atty. Rodolfo Encajonado, reiterated Gonzales’s opinion that the position of Provincial Administrator remains vacant.

Mejorada said the CSC opinion is “a mere scrap of paper that has no biding effect”.

Mejorada also slammed Suplico for wasting time trying to force him out of office instead of discharging his function as vice governor.

Smear campaign vs Gorriceta

 

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

THE Internet is teeming with “black propaganda” against Mayor Arcadio Gorriceta of Pavia, Iloilo via two weblogs or popularly known as “blogs.”

 

One blog, http://steveonthecross.blogspot.com/, detailed the alleged scandal within the upper echelon of Panay Sugar Planters Federation (PanayFed) “when it was discovered that nearly P1 million intended as downpayment for the importation of farm tractors was missing from the coffers of the organization.”

 

The PanayFed story was posted September 29 under the heading “The truth about Cadio.”

 

The blog said a member of the PanayFed board of directors “had withdrawn the money, obviously for his personal use, when everybody else in the organization that it had been spent to help sugar planters improve their sugar production.”

 

The board of directors of the Panay Fed was aghast. Not only were its struggling members deprived of the help in buying farm tractors, but the amount was used by one of its leaders for personal purposes. This triggered a bitter and acrimonious board room battle. But there was no way this director who dipped his fingers into the cookie jar could deny the mischief. There were handwritten receipts. Ultimately, he agreed to return the money. That director who misused the federation’s funds was a man named Arcadio Gorriceta,” the blog said.

 

The steveonthecross blog also accused Gorriceta of mounting the “massive theft” of soil excavated from the Iloilo Flood Control Project which stretches from portions of Pavia to Iloilo City.

 

“…The ‘super-mayor’ saw an opportunity to enrich himself at the expense of the ordinary taxpayer. How? He pressured the project management office and the contractor, Hanjin, to haul the excavated soil to wide areas of land owned by the Gorriceta family in Pavia, Iloilo. By filling the properties with the excavated soil, super mayor Gorriceta raised the elevation of their lands by about two feet above the road level. This is all for free,” the blog said.

 

The elevation of the Gorriceta property, the blog said, more than tripled its value and “Gorriceta can market the family’s properties at a premium price.”

 

 

WHERE WAS CADIO?

 

An October 7 post in the blog http://diskartidor.wordpress.com/ posed this question: Where was Cadio when Frank hit Pavia?

 

The diskartidor blog said Gorriceta did not get wet when Typhoon Frank lashed and inundated Pavia last June 21.

 

“That’s because he was safely ensconced at the airconditioned restaurant of the Days Hotel, enjoying the buffet breakfast and sipping coffee with his friends. There wasn’t a single moment when Cadio Gorriceta really experienced the pain and suffering that his constituents went through. He was like a commander-in-chief situated in a concrete bunker while his people were screaming in fear and clutching at tree branches just to stay alive,” the blog said.

 

The blog added: “By noon, Cadio Gorriceta felt no urgent reason to hie off to Pavia and assess the damage. He never showed concern about the fate of his people by trying to see what else could be done to get them out of harm’s way. These tasks he left to the hands of his lieutenants.”

 

Gorriceta even ate at a restaurant at the Atrium mall and “visited his brother in Molo to console the latter for the millions of pesos in losses in his piggery project.”

 

 

BLACK PROPAGANDA

 

In a telephone interview, Gorriceta said he already expected the negative blogs and other forms of black propaganda to surface against him.

 

Gorriceta said the smear campaign is a natural consequence of his dakal-dakal exposé involving the concreting of the Pagsanga-an-Tigum-Cabugao Norte road in Pavia.

 

The mayor had accused Rep. Judy Syjuco, wife of Tesda director-geneal Augusto Syjuco, of trying to hijack the project.

 

Apparently, the mayor accused the Syjucos as the ones behind the propaganda.

 

“This is what we get when we expose anomalies and evildoings. But these does not affect because I have nothing to hide,” Gorriceta said.

 

As regards the P1-million PanayFed fund, Gorriceta denied any anomaly in the issue but he referred this writer to PanayFed officials led by Francis Treñas to shed light on the issue.

 

“There was no anomaly with the PanayFed fund. But it would be better to ask the officials of PanayFed as it would be self-serving on my part if I answer the accusations in the blog. The officials of PanayFed would be able to shed light on this,” Gorriceta said.

 

Gorriceta also denied “stealing” the excavated soil from the flood control project to jack the value of his properties.

 

Sometime in 2001-2002, Gorriceta said that he offered their family property to the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) as disposal areas for unsuitable/excavated material from the project.

 

His proposal was approved by Engr. Jerome Borjal of the DPWH’s Project Management Office-Major Flood Control Projects based at Brgy. Buhang, Jaro, Iloilo City.

 

“I was entitled to 200,000 cubic meters of excavated material based on the DPWH approval. This materialized before I became mayor of Pavia, so how can I pressure anyone? Before, nobody wanted these excavated materials because these are ordinary bon-bon. Now they look like gold,” Gorriceta said.

 

While he admitted that he was not physically in Pavia when Typhoon Frank hit their town, Gorriceta said he coordinated all rescue efforts in their town.

 

“I burned the lines to seek help from government agencies and private persons. Everybody heard me plea for help over radio stations when floodwaters were rising in out town. Yes I was not there but I did all I could do to help my town,” he said.

 

The mayor also boasted their town’s fast recovery from the flood without much help from the national government.

 

“On our own efforts and through the help of the private sector, our town recovered in just two months,” Gorriceta said.

 

Mejorada-Syjuco reunion stirs hornet’s nest

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

WILL the reconciliation between Iloilo provincial administrator Manuel Mejorada and Technical Education Skills Development Authority (Tesda) chief Augusto “Boboy” Syjuco change the political equation of Iloilo province?

While their reunion only concerns the promotion of Tesda programs, Mejorada said he also talks politics with Syjuco.

“It cannot be avoided that we talk about politics during our previous meetings. But nothing has been concretely discussed because we are more concerned with Tesda,” Mejorada said.

Analysts and pundits opined that Governor Niel Tupas Sr. may have dispatched Mejorada to Syjuco in a bid to solidify the looming candidacy of his son, Barotac Viejo Mayor Raul “Boboy” Tupas.

Mejorada coyly said Tupas approved his reconciliation with Syjuco and there is also the possibility of an alliance between the two political behemoths in 2010 “but 2008 is still far from the election year.”

Mejorada also confirmed that Syjuco mentioned the name of former provincial board member Cecilia Hubag-Capadosa as a possible mayoralty bet in Pavia, Iloilo opposite incumbent Mayor Arcadio Gorriceta.

Syjuco and Gorriceta have been at loggerheads over the dakal-dakal issue of a provincial road in Pavia, Iloilo.

“But nothing has been decided at this time. I even want the political forces in the second district to reunite for the sake of development,” Mejorada said.

In an interview with Aksyon Radyo, Gorriceta said he might decide to go up against Syjuco “if he continues to make a fool out of Pavia.

Gorriceta said Pavianhons have learned their lessons after Syjuco and his wife Rep. Judy Syjuco allegedly tried to hijack the Pagsanga-an-Tigum-Cabugao Norte road concreting project.

Capadosa said she does not see herself striking an alliance with Syjuco “because I believe in the leadership of Mayor Gorriceta.”

“I ran against the Syjuco in 2007 and I don’t think I will lick my own spit. And I believe that Mayor Gorriceta is doing a good job in Pavia,” Capadosa said.

After working for Syjuco in the late 90s, Mejorada lambasted and sued the former congressman over alleged irregularities.

One of the cases filed by Mejorada was the P12-million heavy equipment scam in which Syjuco allegedly rigged the purchase of DPWH equipment and sold his own road grader, pay loader, bulldozer and dump trucks to the Department of Public Works and Highways.

The case filed in April 2006 is the only case that moved, with the Ombudsman directing Syjuco to submit his counter-affidavit sometime in July 2006. But the case became inactive from then on.

The third case involved the P3.25 million that the Tawo kag Duta sa Kauswagan Cooperative, also fully controlled by Syjuco, allegedly siphoned from the municipality of Alimodian, filed last March 2006.

The fourth case was the alleged diversion of P4.2 million in public funds that the Department of Agriculture gave to the Tagipusuon Foundation, another NGO fully-owned and controlled by the Syjuco couple.

Mejorada also sued Rep. Judy Syjuco over the P6.2-million purchase of 1,582 units of Nokia 1100 mobile phones by the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) for the second district.

Mejorada said he wants to have peace of mind reason why he patched things up with the Syjucos as early as February 2008.

“But let me set it straight – it was Boboy Syjuco who approached me, not the other way around. Will I refuse his friendship? We are facing a fight against the opposition-led Sangguniang Panlalawigan. If I continue the fifth with Syjuco, I might spread myself too thin,” Mejorada said.

Ombudsman can’t act on airport anomaly issue

By Francis Allan L. Angelo and Tara Yap

THE Office of the Ombudsman has not received a copy of the House committee report on the alleged irregularities in the new Iloilo airport project reason why it has yet to investigate the matter.

Sources at the Ombudsman regional office in Iloilo City headed by Atty. Evangeline Nuñal, Associate Graft Investigation Officer I, said the House committee on good government has not furnished their office or the Ombudsman central office a copy of Committee Report No. 1676.

The Ombudsman personnel said Rep. Arthur Defensor (3rd district, Iloilo), then committee on good government chair, is the best person to ask why the committee report was not forwarded to them.

In a phone interview, Rep. Defensor said a copy of the committee report was submitted to Ombudsman-Iloilo so they can investigate the findings.

Defensor said he did not bother to follow up the progress of the investigation to avoid malice.

Iloilo Vice Governor Rolex Suplico, who also participated in the committee investigation, said a copy of the report was submitted to Ombudsman Visayas based in Cebu.

Suplico is also wondering why the Ombudsman has yet to resolve the case based on the committee findings two years ago.

“I urge the Ombudsman to act on this matter. It’s been two years since the report was submitted for their action,” Suplico said.

Sources familiar with the issue said the Ombudsman-Visayas is set to resolve the new Iloilo airport issue within the next two weeks.

The Daily Guardian tried to get confirmation from deputy Ombudsman for Visayas Pelagio Apostol but to no avail.

QUARRY DUMMIES

TDG discovered this predicament while following up reports that the Ombudsman is set to resolve the airport anomaly issue based on the findings of Committee Report No. 1676.

The committee report, which was approved May 2006 yet, said there is sufficient ground to prosecute Governor Niel Tupas Sr. for violating the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act when the latter allowed his in-laws, the Montesclaros family of Bukidnon province, to join the burrow pit and rock-crushing operations of the project.

The report said the Montesclaros family earned more or less P60 million from its forays in the airport project through alleged dummy Melvin Requinto.

The Defensor-led committee then recommended furnishing copies of Committee Report No. 1676 to the Office of the Ombudsman and Department of Justice for further investigation on the issues raised against Tupas.

Tupas had disputed the committee report saying no irregularity was found in the construction of the airport.

Provincial Administrator Manuel Mejorada said what was cited in the report was the long dead “dummy” issue against Tupas.

The committee on good government also found out that Tupas and his allies in the 8th Sangguniang Panlalawigan intentionally emasculated the provincial quarry ordinance so that the governor will have the sole power to issue quarry permits to favored contractors.

“It may be argued that under Section 43 of Republic Act 7942, the Governor is given sufficient authority to grant a quarry permit as long as the applicant complies with all the requirements prescribed therefore and he may cancel the same as long as the holder is given the opportunity to be heard in investigation conducted for the purpose. In fact, the (quarry) ordinance of 2000 already covered the whole gamut of activities in the extraction of minerals and quarrying. If indeed the ordinance needed refinements, doing away with the necessary checks in the issuance of permits serves no useful purpose and provides the tempting opportunity for abuse,” the committee report said.

The issue of the “weakened quarry ordinance” prompted the committee on good government to propose amendments to the Philippine Mining Act of 1995.

“The necessary check should be in place to regulate the issuance of small and large-scale quarrying permits to prevent abuse by the executives of local government units in the exercise of their authority,” the report said.

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