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By Francis Allan L. Angelo

MALACAÑANG continues to intervene in Iloilo City politics by trying to strike a compromise between Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas and Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Raul M. Gonzalez Sr. who is running for mayor in 2010.

Sources both from the Gonzalez and Treñas groups claimed that President Gloria Arroyo convened the two leaders to a meeting at the Palace Thursday.

Apparently, the administration is trying to maintain its foothold in Iloilo City by keeping Gonzalez and Treñas in the same group.

Treñas, who is serving his final three-year term as mayor, is being cajoled by the Jerry P. Treñas for Congressman Movement to vie for the lone district of Iloilo City. The movement submitted to Treñas last Tuesday some 10,000 signatures of persons who claim they support the mayor’s candidacy for congressman.

Rep. Raul Gonzalez Jr., the son of Sec. Gonzalez, still has one term left.

Rep. Gonzalez said he intends to finish his term.

A punong barangay identified with Gonzalez confirmed the Malacañang meeting but refused to give details.

In a text message to The Daily Guardian, Treñas denied the Malacañang meeting with Sec. Gonzalez. But he refused to divulge the purpose of his trip to Metro Manila.

“Secret,” the mayor said in his text message.

A likely compromise is for Treñas to run for vice mayor alongside Sec. Gonzalez so that Rep. Gonzalez can finish his term.

Another scenario is for Rep. Gonzalez to slide to the mayoralty post and give way to Treñas.

The second option surfaced when President Arroyo spent a night in Iloilo during her visit to Iloilo last September 24-25. The President reportedly met the two political leaders to discuss their ticket next year.

Treñas earlier said he will go on vacation next week to reflect on his political plans next year.

“I am agonizing over this,” Treñas said.

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Gonzalez: Aquino gave Ilonggos false hopes on redistricting

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

CHIEF Presidential Legal Counsel Raul Gonzalez Sr. accused Senator Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III of giving false hopes to Ilonggos as regards the redistricting of Iloilo City.

Gonzalez Sr. said Aquino assured him thrice that the latter will hear the proposed creation of the second congressional district in the city.

Aquino chairs the Senate committee on local governments which hears redistricting bills filed in Congress.

Iloilo City Rep. Raul Gonzalez Jr. filed the redistricting bill last year and breezed through the House of Representatives.

The bill is still pending in Aquino’s committee after the senator questioned the qualifications of Iloilo City to a second congressional district.

Gonzalez Sr. said Aquino went to his office when he was still justice secretary to assure him that the committee will deliberate the redistricting measure in April 2009. 

“But nothing happened to Senator Aquino’s promise. He gave us false hopes,” Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez recalled Aquino as saying that he will block the redistricting of Camarines Sur and Cavite but will give due attention to Iloilo City’s case.

“The barangay captains in Iloilo City were willing to go to the Senate to attend the hearing but nothing happened until now. The redistricting bills of Camarines Sur and Cavite were passed, why not Iloilo City? We are more than qualified for another district,” Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez said he wrote Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and Senators Juan Miguel Zubiri and Miriam Defensor-Santiago to protest the delay in the hearing of the redistricting bill.

Atty. Daniel Cartagena, the chief oppositor to the redistricting bill, defended Aquino by recalling their previous conversation.

Cartagena said Aquino went to Gonzalez’s to “politely inform” the latter that the Iloilo City redistricting bill does not satisfy constitutional requirements.

“To show respect to the man who helped his father Benigno Aquino Jr., Senator Noynoy Aquino went to the Department of Justice to formally inform Sec. Gonzalez about his refusal to hear the bill,” Cartagena said.

Cartagena said the senator believes that Iloilo City’s population of more than 418,000 is short of the requirements set by the 1986 Constitution.

The Constitution provides that a congressional distinct must have a minimum population of 250,000.

Cartagena even challenged Gonzalez to a debate on the redistricting bill.

“Now that he is not the justice secretary, maybe I can challenge him to a debate regarding this issue,” he said.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

ARE the Gonzalezes pulling the leg of Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas as regards the proposed redistricting of the city?

Lawyer Daniel Cartagena said Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Raul Gonzalez Sr. and his son Rep. Raul Jr. might be fooling Treñas when they assured that the city’s redistricting will push through.

The proposed creation of a second legislative district in Iloilo City is an initiative of Rep. Gonzalez.

The measure passed the House of the Representatives but it remains stuck in the Senate committee on local governments chaired by Sen. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III due to legal questions.

Last week, Rep. Gonzalez said the measure is still very much alive even as his father and Treñas continue to negotiate with senators.

Cartagena and other critics see the redistricting bill as a form of gerrymandering to give Treñas his own constituency should he decide to run for congressman.

Treñas will finish his third term as mayor in 2010.

Cartagena said the Gonzalezes’s statements are doubtful because while they assure that the redistricting bill is still alive, they are also preparing for their own political plans.

“Gonzalez Sr. is telling everybody that he is running for mayor while Rep. Gonzalez Jr. will surely run for his third term. That leaves Mayor Treñas out in the cold. Basi gina-intu lang nila si Mayor bala,” Cartagena said.

Cartagena said Sen. Aquino already made up his mind in not taking up the city’s redistricting bill because of legal infirmities.

“Even if the bill passes the Senate, Sen. Aquino said he will question the measure before the Supreme Court,” he added.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

CHIEF Presidential Legal Counsel Raul Gonzalez Sr. said he did not visit the wake of former President Corazon Aquino for fear of her supporters.

Gonzalez said he sent a letter of sympathy to Senator Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, the only son of Aquino, instead of visiting her wake at La Salle Greenhills and Manila Cathedral.

In his weekly radio and TV talk show Counterstrike, Gonzalez said fans of actress Kris Aquino, youngest child of Aquino, might still be angry at him for his remarks against the former president.

Gonzalez got flak for telling Aquino to “mind her daughter Kris” instead of calling for the resignation of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Aquino had called on Arroyo to resign in 2005, when the “Hello Garci” scandal on poll fraud in the 2004 polls broke out.

Gonzalez said the statement was just a joke he made during a forum of the National Press Club.

“I did not go to the wake. I just wrote a letter to Noynoy. I did not go there because I know Kris’s fans still harbor resentment against me,” he said.

Gonzalez was one of the lawyers of former Sen. Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. when the latter was incarcerated during the Martial Law years.

In 1986, President Aquino appointed him Tanodbayan (now called Ombudsman) and special prosecutor.

As special prosecutor, he handled the Ninoy Aquino-Rolando Galman double murder case and secured the conviction of Ninoy Aquino’s murderers.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

IS FORMER Senate president Franklin Drilon one of the reasons why some senators are not inclined to approve the Iloilo City redistricting bills?

To the mind of chief presidential legal counsel Raul Gonzalez Sr., Drilon could be the main stumbling block to the creation of a second legislative district in the City.

Gonzalez pointed out that Drilon and Senator Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, Senate committee on local governments chair, belong to the Liberal Party.

Gonzalez said Drilon, who opposed the redistricting, could be using his position in LP to influence Aquino to sit on the bill.

“As members of Liberal Party, Aquino supports Drilon’s stand on the redistricting issue,” he added.

The House of Representatives has approved its own version of the redistricting bill filed by Iloilo City Rep. Raul Gonzalez Sr.

Drilon and Gonzalez became political arch nemeses, especially when the former Senate president denounced and called for the resignation of President Gloria Arroyo in July 2005.

Aquino earlier said they cannot deliberate on the Iloilo City redistricting bill because the metropolis’ population does not meet the requirements of the 1986 Constitution. The constitution mandates that each legislative district must have at least 250,000 population.

Aquino said the city’s redistricting will open to constitutional challenge before the Supreme Court even if they approve the bill.

Iloilo City has 417,000 population as of the 2007 census.

Aquino cited the population of the second Iloilo district, composed of Molo, Arevalo and the City Proper districts which has 173,533 population only.

Gonzalez insists that Iloilo City qualifies for a new legislative district based on a SC decision on the redistricting of Makati City.

Gonzalez was referring to 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.

“The Supreme Court decision in the case of Makati is very clear that if a city or town satisfies the base population requirement of 250,000, it qualifies for a second legislative district,” Gonzalez said.

Aside from more pork barrel for the city, observers say the redistricting bill is meant to preserve the alliance of the Gonzalezes and Mayor Jerry Treñas who is serving his last three-year term.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

MALACAÑANG confirmed Monday the transfer of Department of Justice (DoJ) Sec. Raul Gonzalez Sr. to the Office of the Chief Presidential Legal Counsel (OCPLC).

 

Lorelei Fajardo, deputy presidential spokesperson, announced Gonzalez’s reassignment in a press conference in Manila Monday.

 

Fajardo said Gonzalez began working in his new office June 4.

 

Fajardo said Gonzalez lobbied for the post after announcing his plan to retire in November so he can run for Iloilo City mayor in 2010.

 

Gonzalez, who complained of the grueling out-of-town cabinet meetings, chief is also planning to bring his sick son, Jose Mari, to the Lourdes Shrine in France.

 

Replacing Gonzalez at the justice department is Solicitor General Agnes Devanadera.

 

Devanadera was designated acting DoJ secretary in 2007 when the former underwent kidney transplant.

 

Gonzalez will replace fellow Ilonggo Jesus Dureza who will return to his old post as chair of the Mindanao Economic Development Council.

 

Earlier, Gonzalez said Devanadera is not fit for his post because of her cases with the Ombudsman. 

 

The former DoJ chief said OCPLC is another heavy assignment for him because of the office’s heavy workload.

 

Gonzalez said he wanted stay with the DoJ until the November deadline for the filing of certificates of candidacy because he wants to finish the Dacer-Corbito double murder case.

 

The case was revived after former police Supt. Cezar Mancao went back to the country last wee.

 

“I wanted to handle the case and because this is my baby. I don’t think anybody can handle this the way I will. I know this case by heart even if I sleep,” Gonzalez said over Bombo Radyo Iloilo.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

TO RESIGN or not to resign?

 

This is the question bugging Department of Justice (DoJ) Sec. Raul Gonzalez Sr. after he was offered the job of chief presidential legal counsel.

 

Gonzalez said his appointment to the Office of the Chief Presidential Legal Counsel (OCPLC) was issued two months ago but he has yet to accept it.

 

The appointment came out after he asked President Gloria Arroyo for a “lighter assignment” since DoJ has heavy workload aside from supervising 9 bureaus and offices.

 

But it seems that the OCPLC is another tough assignment for the aging Gonzalez, who underwent kidney transplant in 2007.

 

Gonzalez said the OCPLC is loaded with 8,000 unresolved cases. His reassignment would also mean that he will be assigned to Malacañang and will be at the beck and call of the President.

 

Gonzalez said he is weighing his options whether to accept the OCPLC post, ask for another assignment or quit government service.

 

Gonzalez, who is eyeing the Iloilo City mayor’s office next year, earlier said out-of-town cabinet meetings are tiring aside from the risks hounding the top DoJ post. 

 

“I would accept other assignments in order not to disappoint the President. It’s no big deal wherever I go because I will still resign in preparation for 2010,” he said.

 

Gonzalez said he also wants to finish the Dacer-Corbito double murder case after former police official Cezar Mancao returned to the country to testify in the case.

 

He claimed that House Speaker Prospero Nograles is convincing President Arroyo to retain him as DoJ chief to take care of the Dacer-Corbito case.

 

Meanwhile, Gonzalez said Solicitor General Agnes Devanadera might not replace him as DoJ secretary because of her pending cases with the Ombudsman.

 

These cases are the same issues raised against Devanedera when President Arroyo appointed her to the Supreme Court two years ago.

 

Another possible replacement of Gonzalez is Secretary to the Cabinet Silvestre Bello III who once served as justice secretary during the administration of former president Corazon Aquino.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

IS Department of Justice (DoJ) Secretary Raul Gonzalez Sr. calling it quits?

 

Gonzalez, 78, said he might leave the DoJ for various reasons, particularly health and family concerns.

 

Gonzalez, who underwent kidney transplant two years ago, said out-of-town cabinet meetings by President Gloria Arroyo are taking a toll on his health.

 

The DoJ chief said trips to other provinces to attend the cabinet meetings are tiring.

 

Gonzalez said he is also concerned with the deteriorating health of his son, Jose Mari. “He is suffering from palsy and epilepsy. He also fell from our stairs at home. Daw lupog na gid (He’s almost crippled),” he added.

 

Gonzalez said they are planning to bring his son on pilgrimage to Lourdes, France and Fatima, Spain where some sick people claimed to have been healed.

 

“But this H1N1 flu complicated matters because traveling abroad means a lot process that we have to undergo, particularly quarantine,” he said.

 

Gonzalez said he might opt to resign June 15 or wait for the November 30 deadline for appointed officials who want to run for elected positions.

 

Gonzalez earlier said he might run for Iloilo City mayor next year. 

 

The Commission on Elections requires appointed officials who want to run in the 2010 polls to resign from their posts before filing their candidacy.

 

The DoJ secretary said President Arroyo offered him the office of the Chief Presidential Legal Counsel (OCPLC) if he leaves the DoJ.

 

Jesus Dureza, also an Ilonggo from Janiuay and Guimbal, is the concurrent presidential legal adviser.

 

But Gonzalez said the OCPLA is also “a powerful and heavy assignment” which handles a lot of workload.

 

“Nothing’s final as of this time. I’m still weighing my options because if I leave quickly, some people might say I’m abandoning a sinking ship,” he said.

 

But political observers said Gonzalez, who has been loyal to the Arroyo administration, is being eased out after he disagreed with the Lakas-Kampi merger.

 

Reportedly, Gonzalez is not anymore the top gun of the administration party.

 

His closeness to Senator Manuel Villar, who is running for president under Nacionalista Party, is another reason why the administration might get rid of him.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

 

Atty. Edeljulio Romero: I knew about the investigation through the media.

 

State Prosecutor Romeo Galvez: Nobody showed up (Photos by Tara Yap)

 

THE fresh investigation on the slaying of vice mayor Ramon Rojas of Ajuy, Iloilo has been postponed for next month after key characters in the case did not show up in yesterday’s investigation.

 

Senior State Prosecutor Romeo Galvez said they moved the preliminary investigation to June 15 to give the complainants, respondents and witnesses time to prepare.

 

Galvez said they waited for the Ajuy police, representatives of the Rojas family and Dennis Cartagena to appear at the Iloilo Provincial Prosecutors Office (IPPO) but they did not appear.

 

Only Atty. Edeljulio Romero, a member of the legal team of businessman Vicente Espinosa, appeared before the three-man panel tasked to reinvestigate Rojas’ assassination.

 

Romero said he was instructed by Espinosa’s lead counsel, Rey Padilla, to act as observer in the investigation.

 

“But the panel instructed us to submit by June 15 our counter affidavit to the extra-judicial confession of Dennis Cartagena,” Romero said.

 

Romero said they did not receive any summon from the investigating panel.

 

“I only learned about the preliminary investigation through the media,” Romero said.

 

Cartagena accused Espinosa of masterminding Rojas assassination last May 22, 2008 at Brgy. Central, Ajuy.

 

Galvez said they sent summons to the parties involved in the case via speed mail last May 20.

 

“I don’t know why they failed to show up. We set the investigation from 10am to 11am but no one showed up,” Galvez said.

 

Galvez said the investigation will focus on confessions of Cartagena touted as a new piece of evidence in the case. 

 

The Rojas family had filed with the Department of Justice (DoJ) a petition for review on the decision of the IPPO dismissing the charges against Espinosa and Buenavista.

 

When Cartagena surfaced and spilled what he knew about the case, the Rojas family presented his extra-judicial confession.

 

DoJ Secretary Raul Gonzalez Sr. formed the three-man panel last week to look into Cartagena’s affidavit.

6 Ilonggos infected by H1N1 virus?

 

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

 

Six persons believed to be infected by the dreaded H1N1 influenza (earlier called as swine flu) are being tracked down by authorities in Iloilo, according to Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez.

 

Gonzalez said the six unidentified Ilonggos came from North and South America where the flu virus first spread.

 

“Reports from Manila said they evaded the thermal check machines at the airport and quickly flew back to Iloilo. We are checking their names and addresses now,” Gonzalez said.

 

Gonzalez said he was in the same flight with the six Ilonggos 9am Saturday.

 

“I urge them to show up and seek medical help. We will keep their identities confidential if they come out in the open. Our health authorities are ready to help them,” Gonzalez said.

 

On Saturday, three natives of Barotac Viejo, Iloilo who flew home from San Francisco, California were quarantined by DoH personnel after the thermal scanner at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport detected that one of them had fever.

 

Luis and Julie Destacamento and their child where was brought to the DoH’s Research Institute of Tropical Medicine for examination. But it later turned out that they were suffering from chicken pox, not H1N1 flu.

 

They were later allowed to fly to Iloilo after the quarantine and tests.

 

H1N1 Flu task force

 

Iloilo and health officials will meet today to discuss possible measures to stop the entry and possible spread of H1N1 influenza A virus strain in the city and province.

 

Iloilo Governor Niel Tupas Sr. and Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas called for the meeting after H1N1 flu (earlier called as swine flu) cases were confirmed in Hong Kong and South Korea.

 

Also attending the meeting are officials of the Department of Health-Center for Health Development and city and provincial health officials.

 

Treñas had mulled the creation of a H1N1 task after other local government units formed their respective task forces.

 

Treñas said they will put up a similar task force if the DoH advises them so. He also advised the public to avoid intimate contact such as kissing and hand shaking.

 

“We should also observe proper hygiene by washing our hands with soap and water or sanitizer. The virus can only be spread through human to human contact,” Treñas added.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

THE Police Regional Office (PRO-6) confirmed reports that a group of rebels from Luzon arrived in Western Visayas to extort from politicians and candidates.

 

Chief Supt. Isagani Cuevas, PRO-6 director, said the group is composed of New People’s Army (NPA) and Revolutionary Proletarian Army-Alex Boncayao Brigade (RPA-ABB) members.

 

Cuevas said they have been monitoring the movements of the group the last two months.

 

“Three of their members were spotted in Region 6 last month,” Cuevas said.

 

The PRO-6 chief added that the Luzon rebels met their local counterpart last week.

 

Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez Sr. earlier said rebels are planning to extort from politicians in Region 6. They also plan to rob banks in the region to raise funds for the 2010 elections.

 

As regards the planned bank robberies, Cuevas said they continue to investigate and validate the report.

 

A spokesman of an RPA-ABB faction denied allegations that they are planning to rob banks in Iloilo and Aklan.

 

A certain Ka Rolly told Bombo Radyo-Iloilo that the accusation against their group is a cheap propaganda by their adversaries.

 

Ka Rolly said they continue to respect and observe 2000 peace agreement between their group and the Philippine government.

 

He attributed the allegations to the group of a certain Ka Revo who belongs to a rival faction.

 

The RPA-ABB is split between the groups of Nilo de la Cruz and Stephen Paduano alias Carapali Lualhati.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

DEPARTMENT of Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez Sr. warned banks and money transfer agencies in Iloilo City to be wary of a group of robbers from Luzon.

 

Citing unnamed sources, Gonzalez said he received information that the alleged robbers have been conducting surveillance operations on three major banks and a money transfer firm in the city.

 

The target firms are Banco De Oro, Metrobank, Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI) and Western Union in Aklan, Gonzalez said.

 

“The information is still being verified further. The planned robberies are linked to the 2010 elections. The money that will be raised will be used in the campaign next year. We want the banks to be careful at all times that’s why we are releasing this information,” he added.

 

The justice department chief also revealed that a group of rebels also from Luzon arrived in Iloilo to conduct extortion activities to raise funds for next year’s elections.

 

“They have tie-ups with local rebel forces to extort from businesses and candidates. They even sent extortion letters to two persons already,” Gonzalez said.

 

Alleged members of the Revolutionary Proletarian Army-Alex Boncayao Brigade (RPA-ABB) and the New People’s Army (NPA) have been accused of extorting from politicians during election season.

 

The rebels demand fees from candidates in exchange for “permits to campaign” in their strongholds.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

THE national redistricting bill is nearing approval by Congress, according to a top Ilonggo official.

 

Department of Justice (DoJ) Secretary Raul Gonzalez Sr. said the Senate and House of Representatives are reconciling the two versions of the bill which will increase the number of congressmen in the country.

 

The House version, which was authored by Iloilo City Rep. Raul Gonzalez Jr., proposes 50 additional seats while the Senate wants to add 100 seats.

 

If the bill is passed, the number of congressmen will increase from 238 to as much as 300.

 

Sec. Gonzalez, however, said that filling up the 100 additional seats in the House will depend on the country’s population.

 

The 1986 Constitution mandates that a congressional district should have a 250,000 population.

 

The DoJ chief said the redistricting bill is in keeping with the principle of taxation.

 

“The power to tax is the most potent power of the state. That’s why you need representation in order that taxation can be properly represented for the people,” he added.

 

The national redistricting bill came to fore after the Senate committee on local government headed by Senator Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III was flooded with numerous redistricting measures from Congress.

 

Senate President Juan Ponce-Enrile then suggested that the House lump the individual bills into a single measure to facilitate its passage.

 

Enrile had assured the Gonzalezes that the bill will be passed as soon as possible.

 

Rep. Gonzalez earlier filed a bill creating the second congressional district of Iloilo City.

 

The younger Gonzalez said the creation of the second district will fast track the development of the city as it will mean more pork barrel allocations.

 

But critics of Rep. Gonzalez’s redistricting bill said the city did not pass the 250,000 population requisite in the Constitution as the total population of the metropolis is only more than 418,000.

 

The bill was also seen as way to avert a political confrontation between the Gonzalezes and Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas who will end his third 3-year term in 2010.

Sec. Gonzalez: Don’t look at me

FORMER Mayor Alex Centena is mayor again of Calinog, Iloilo.

A close aid of Salvador Divinagracia told The Daily Guardian that the ousted mayor has stepped down and gave way to Centena who filed an election protest against him for the vice mayoralty in the May 2007 elections and was declared by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) as the winner last Jan. 26.

Divinagracia decided late yesterday afternoon when Iloilo Gov. Niel Tupas Sr. stepped in and brokered a dialogue between his camp and Centena’s camp and along with the town’s barangay captains.

Divinagracia’s decision to step down ended tensions that began last Mar. 6 when his supporters trooped to the town hall to block the delivery of Comelec’s cease-and-desist order and writ of execution, both of which ordered him to vacate the office of the vice mayor.

Last Mar. 9, the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) recognized Centena as the lawful town mayor. However, Divinagracia and his supporters continued to stay at the town hall and refuse to yield.

Divinagracia has repeatedly said the writ of execution was “defective”, stressing he was no longer serving as vice mayor following the death of then mayor Teodoro Lao last year. He and his legal counsels maintained that the writ specifically stated he stopped from performing his functions as the vice mayor.

Meanwhile, Divinagracia vowed to continue his legal battle. He hopes the Supreme Court favors him.

GONZALEZ DENIES ROLE

DON’T blame me.

Department of Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez Sr. objected to insinuations that he is the reason for the political upheaval in Calinog, Iloilo.

Gonzalez said he laments the penchant of some people to tag him in controversies in Iloilo, particularly political feuds.

Gonzalez in particular took exception to the statements of ousted Calinog mayor Salvador Divinagracia who said that prominent people are behind his rival, newly-installed mayor Alex Centena.

Divinagracia also hit Gonzalez for commenting on the political feud in Calinog since he is from Iloilo City.

It was Gonzalez who confirmed last week that the Commission on Elections has ordered the installation of Centena as Calinog mayor.

Centena’s visits to Gonzalez during the pendency of the former’s election protest also stoked insinuations that the DoJ chief was involved in the Calinog issue.

Centena lost to Divinagracia in the 2007 vice mayoralty race but the former filed an election protest with the Regional Trial Court which upheld the latter’s victory.

Centena elevated his case to the Comelec which reversed the RTC. But while the protest was being heard, Calinog mayor Teodoro Lao died of sickness, catapulting Divinagracia to the mayor’s office.

The Comelec en banc declared Centena the winner of the 2007 elections and ordered Divinagracia to vacate the mayor’s office.

The Department of Interior and Local Government consequently recognized Centena because of the Comelec order.

Gonzalez said Divinagracia might be sour graping because he lost his case.

By Francis Allan Angelo

 

IS Department of Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez Sr. the “prominent person” behind the bid of former mayor Alex Centena to reclaim the top post of Calinog, Iloilo?

 

No less than Gonzalez confirmed reports that the Commission on Elections (Comelec) en banc has issued a writ of execution relative to its January 26 decision declaring Centena as the winner of the 2007 vice mayoralty race in Calinog.

 

Gonzalez said Comelec chair Jose Melo has signed the writ after the poll body’s en banc session Tuesday.

 

“Normally, the writ of execution is directed to the court where the case originated. Since the election protest was filed with the Regional Trial Court in Iloilo, it will be the one to implement the installation of Centena,” Gonzalez said.

 

Why is Gonzalez the one announcing this latest development in Calinog politics?

 

Gonzalez earlier said he will not dabble in Calinog politics although he believes that Centena won the elections and has a strong case in his protest.

 

Last year, Centena was spotted at the Gonzalez residence in Brgy. Quintin Salas, Jaro, Iloilo City during the birthday of the justice secretary.

 

Incumbent Calinog Mayor Salvador Divinagracia had said that prominent persons are helping Centena get a favorable ruling from the Comelec.

 

Divinagracia, through his lawyer Roberto Catolico, have appealed the Comelec decision upholding Centena’s victory pending the motion for certiorari they filed with the Supreme Court.

 

Aside from the certiorari, Divinagracia also asked the SC to issue a temporary restraining order against the Comelec decision.

 

But the high tribunal has yet to issue any TRO and only asked the Comelec to comment on Divinagracia’s motion.

 

Divinagracia said the SC’s order to the poll body to comment on his plea is a “TRO of sorts” against Centena’s looming assumption to the Calinog municipal hall.

 

Divinagracia succeeded then mayor Teodoro Lao who died last year of a lingering illness.

DILG, COMELEC READY

 

While they have yet to receive a copy of the supposed writ from their central office, Comelec regional director Dennis Ausan said they are ready to implement the order.

 

“It all depends on the tenor of the writ. If the central office directs the RTC to install Centena, it will be court’s call. If the RTC seeks our assistance, we are ready to do so,” Ausan said.

 

Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) regional legal officer Ferdinand Panes said their role is to administer Centena’s oath of office before he is installed.

 

Panes shared Ausan’s point that the RTC will implement the Comelec decision “although the court can deputize the Comelec regional office or the DILG.”

 

“Even the PNP is ready should there be an order to install Centena,” Panes added.

 

Ausan said they don’t expect violence to occur when they implement the writ citing his previous experience in other areas.

 

“Everything will be given due course. We will convene both parties to lessen or eliminate friction,” Ausan said.  

 

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

THE national redistricting bill pending before Congress might save efforts to create the second congressional district of Iloilo City, according to Department of Justice (DoJ) Secretary Raul Gonzalez Sr.

 

Gonzalez said Senate president Juan Ponce-Enrile vowed to approve within 10 days the national redistricting bill once it passes the House of Representatives.

 

The national redistricting bill, which seeks to increase the number of congressmen from 238 to 300, stemmed from the rash of redistricting bills passed by the House and now pending with the Senate.

 

Gonzalez said the national redistricting bill is the answer to the dispute within Senate committee on local government after Senators Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino, who chairs the committee, and Joker Arroyo on how to deal with individual redistricting measures.

 

Aquino said redistricting should not be implemented in Iloilo City only, reason why he supports a national redistricting measure.

 

The dispute prompted Enrile to order Aquino to freeze actions on the redistricting bills until the matter is settled.

 

Upon Enrile’s suggestion, Sec. Gonzalez said his son, Iloilo City Rep. Raul Gonzalez Jr., filed his version of the national redistricting bill which was later adopted by the House.

 

“Nag-imbitar sa akon si Enrile. Nagsuggest siya, para madula na di ang ginamo sa Senate, tell your son to file a new bill not only for Iloilo City but for the whole country,” Gonzalez said over Bombo Radyo.

 

The new redistricting bill proposed to increase the House membership to 300 although Enrile pushed for 350 total seats.

 

Rep. Gonzalez filed a bill with the House last year to create the second congressional district of Iloilo City citing the need for another representative and pork barrel for burgeoning metropolis.

 

Rep. Gonzalez’s bill coasted through the House but it hit a snag in the Senate.

 

The bill has been questioned because Iloilo City’s population as of last year is only 400,000. The 1986 Constitution mandates that a congressional district must have at least 250,000 population.

 

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

JUSTICE Secretary Raul Gonzalez is willing to twist arms if only to ship out cops allegedly involved in illegal drugs and other criminal activities.

Gonzalez said he is confident that the Department of Interior and Local Government will heed his request to reassign to Mindanao 20 police officers in Iloilo who were tagged in various crime syndicates.

Gonzalez said he has submitted the names of the police officers to DILG Secretary Ronaldo Puno who has supervision over the Philippine National Police.

The justice department chief said he has solid proof against the police officers accused of coddling criminals in Iloilo.

“The DILG might defend these police officers but I will confront Secretary Puno about this in Malacañang,” he said.

Ten of the 20 police officers in Gonzalez’s list have been identified: PO1 Godofredo Jamolo Jr., PO2 Remy Donasco, SPO3 Elvis Donasco, SPO4 Fred Blones, PO3 Ferdinand Garcia, PO2 Arnold Alavansas, PO3 Henry Mana-ay, PO3 Edmund Castillo, and SPO1 Ronaldo Alag.

Gonzalez has also tagged SPO1 Rex Delos Reyes of Igbaras PNP of coddling armed goons and lobbing a grenade at the car of Iloilo City Police Office intelligence chief Musa Amiyong.

Atty. Plaridel Nava, Delos Reyes’ legal counsel, said his client has threatened to file libel and disbarment cases against Gonzalez for making premature statements.

Nava said Gonzalez should refrain from tagging police officers to crimes as this might affect any cases that will be filed with the prosecutors’ office.

“He is the secretary of justice and he supervises prosecutors. If he makes such statements, he might prejudice cases filed against the police officers or against him,” Nava said.

Delos Reyes said over Bombo Radyo that he will seek a temporary restraining order against the plan to reassign them to war-torn Mindanao.

Delos Reyes said Gonzalez’s moves are purely personal after the former was seen talking to former Iloilo City prosecutor Efrain Baldago whom the justice secretary removed months ago.

Gonzalez welcomed any suit from delos Reyes saying he has nothing personal against the police officer.

Gonzalez said it is only now that he learned delos Reyes’ connection to Baldago.

PGMA meddles in Pavia road project fiasco

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

PRESIDENT Gloria Arroyo has reportedly intervened in the squabble between Mayor Arcadio Gorriceta of Pavia, Iloilo and the Department of Public Works and Highways’ Iloilo 4th Engineering District over a P28-million road project.

Presidential assistant for Panay and Guimaras Raul Banias said President Arroyo has ordered the concreting of the 3.4-km Pagsangaan-Tigum-Cabugao Norte provincial road in Pavia.

Banias said the President told Executive Secretary Ermita to settle the issue between Gorriceta and 4th district Engr. George Suy on who should handle and what to do with the road project.

Gorriceta, who worked for the release of the P28-million funding of the project, earlier riled at Suy and Rep. Judy Syjuco (2nd district, Iloilo) for trying to “hijack” the project upon knowing that the funds were already available.

The mayor first broached the asphalting of the Pagsangaan-Tigum-Cabugao Norte road to Banias as part of the Panay rehabilitation efforts.

Banias then endorsed the proposal to DPWH regional director Rolando Asis who forwarded the same to their central office.

Gorriceta later offered to Asis that the municipal government undertakes the road concreting project instead of asphalting. The mayor said the arrangement will be spelled out in a memorandum of agreement between the local government and DPWH.

DPWH assistant regional director Joby Cordon informed Gorriceta last September 4 that some P10.5 million for the road project was released to the DPWH 4th Engineering District based in Sta. Barbara, Iloilo. Cordon said the money was released upon the request of Rep. Syjuco.

In her letter to DPWH Secretary Hermogenes Ebdane dated September 9, Rep. Syjuco said while they support the concreting of the Pagsangaan-Tigum-Cabugao Norte road, “we object vehemently to the request of the mayor of Pavia to administer the work.”

“Simply just like the rest of us, the town should limit its affairs to local governance and should not be in the construction business of national government public projects. The DPWH is the sole agency for public projects which it (sic) may itself administer or bid out to qualified contractors. The town is not a business entity that can undertake the business of national government public works construction,” Syjuco said.

Gorriceta said he was surprised when Suy informed him last September 5 that the project was awarded to Patrila Construction Co. through negotiated contract.

Suy, according to Gorriceta, said the scope of work is “repair and restoration” by filling the road with dakal-dakal (sand and gravel), not asphalting nor concreting because they will just “restore” the gravel road to its original form.

The mayor said he is equally surprised by Syjuco’s sudden interest in the project “when before they said they don’t want to touch provincial road projects.”

“Why the sudden interest (in the project)? Before, then Congressman Augusto Syjuco said they don’t want to fund provincial roads because it is the work of the provincial government. But when they learned that there are available funds for the Pagsangaan-Tigum-Cabugao Norte road, they intervened,” Gorriceta said.

Suy denied Gorriceta’s claim saying the mayor misunderstood him. He said they have yet to award the project to any contractor and that the P10.5 million is still intact.

Suy’s denial prompted Gorriceta to call the latter a “liar” over live radio interviews the past days.

Suy said they will still evaluate the capabilities of the Pavia municipal government in undertaking the road project.

“If the mayor really wants to administer the project, he can always submit his proposal so we can evaluate it. Or the Iloilo provincial government can also ask the Department of Budget and Management to transfer the fund from the 4th Engineering Office to the Capitol. Bahala na mag-usap ang provincial government at si Mayor Gorriceta,” Suy said.

Asis said that in order for Pavia to handle the project, it must have undertaken a similar road construction with a contract price at least 50 percent of the Pagsangaan-Tigum-Cabugao Norte project.

Asis said the municipal government must have ample technical personnel and equipment for the project.

Gorriceta said he is happy with President Arroyo’s move to intervene in the issue and order the road concreting project.

“At least, we got what we want which is to put up a concrete road. Our people in the area won’t suffer from dust and mud anymore when the project is realized. And most of all, we were able to protect people’s money from falling in wrong hands,” Gorriceta said.

The mayor also thanked Banias and Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez, who chairs the Task Force Panay, for bringing the road project issue to the President’s attention.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

MORE than P500 million has been set aside for the rehabilitation of Panay Island in the aftermath of the destructive flood brought about by typhoon Frank more than two months ago.

Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez Sr., chair of Task Force Panay, said a total of P540 million has been allocated for the island but more money is needed.

President Gloria Arroyo designated Gonzalez as TF Panay chair in his capacity as the Cabinet officer for regional development (CORD). Presidential assistant for Panay and Guimaras Raul Banias, who once chaired the task force, acts as operations officer of TF Panay.

Aside from the P540-million fund, Gonzalez said the national government, through various agencies, has released money for post-typhoon Frank relief and recovery operations.

Gonzalez said the P540-million fund will be released through agencies such as the Departments of Agriculture and Public Works and Highways.

Some P10 billion is needed to fully rehabilitate typhoon-ravaged areas in Panay, according to estimates by the national government.

The National Disaster Coordinating Council said the cost of devastation wrought by the typhoon in Region 6 reached P11.546 billion as of July 7. The agriculture sector suffered P7.57 billion in damages while some P3.96 billion worth of infrastructure were destroyed.

Aklan and Iloilo accounted for the most damage to agricultural products at over P5 billion. Damages to roads and bridges raced over P2 billion.

Gonzalez said Congress has formed a technical working group which will study additional rehabilitation fund for Panay.

Two motives eyed in del Castillo slay;

 

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

PERSONAL grudge and his work as Iloilo provincial fire marshal are two of the possible motives seen by the police in the murder of Supt. Casiano del Castillo in Arevalo, Iloilo City Friday last week.

 

This, even as the Iloilo City Police Office (ICPO) claimed they have identified the triggerman who shot del Castillo five times resulting in his death.

 

Senior Supt. Bartolome Tobias, ICPO director, said witnesses were able to identify the gunman through his picture.

 

Tobias refused to name the suspect although he said the gunman is a native of Iloilo province.

 

The ICPO chief said they looking into del Castillo’s work at the Bureau of Fire Prevention and previous disputes to determine the motive for his assassination.

 

“We are carefully eliminating other motives and we are now focusing on these two angles,” he added.

 

In several radio interviews, the victim’s wife Rose del Castillo told her about his falling out with a colleague although she did not elaborate.

 

Rose said her husband advised them to be careful after receiving death threats days before he was gunned down.

 

Del Castillo was walking to their home at Landheights Subdivision in Arevalo district when two motorcycle persons waylaid him with a caliber .45 pistol. The victim died at the Saviour International Hospital in Mandurriao district.

 

The victim recently exposed several anomalies at the BFP, particularly missing high-powered firearms, repair of fire trucks sans competitive bidding and questionable recruitment of firefighters.

 

Del Castillo traced the alleged anomalies to his predecessor, former provincial fire marshal Edga Gimotea, who also happens to be his wedding godfather.

 

In the middle of exposé, del Castillo criticized Gimotea for allegedly maintaining a lending business inside the BFP regional office in Aduana Street, Iloilo City proper.

 

The word war prompted Gimotea to file perjury cases against del Castillo.

 

Before he was shot last week, del Castillo went to the Iloilo Hall of Justice to file his counter affidavit to the perjury case.

 

Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez Sr. said he also received last August 19 a letter from Gimotea detailing his dispute with del Castillo.

 

Gonzalez said he is willing to order the National Bureau of Investigation to probe del Castillo’s death if the latter’s family seeks his help.

 

The Bureau of Fire Prevention has condemned del Castillo’s murder.

 

Fire Sr. Inspector Bartolome Billaran said they were shocked with the incident even as they assured to help their fallen colleague’s family.

HIRED KILLERS

Tobias said it is possible that the suspects in del Castillo’s death are hired killers.

 

This piece of information jived with the investigation of the Jaro police that paid assassins gunned down Edgar Pedrajas a week ago. Pedrajas is a relative of a suspected drug lord allegedly operating in Iloilo City.

 

According to the Jaro police, the gunmen stayed and planned the killing in a house in Iloilo City.

 

Tobias said they also received reports of the purported team of assassins in Iloilo City although he allayed fears raised on their presence and the series of killings.

 

The AFP also released reports that sparrow hit men of the New People’s Army were spotted in Arevalo plaza, not far from the area where del Castillo was killed.

 

Tobias said the whole ICPO force is on alert against any incursions by the assassins spotted in the city.

 

Since he assumed the ICPO helm, Tobias was confronted by a series of killings including the case of American Daniel John Chabra, Pedrajas and del Castillo.

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