Two months into the Defensor administration at the Iloilo capitol, we have already witnessed two major developments that demonstrate the character flaws of the current governor and prove his predecessor, Niel Tupas Sr., to have been right all along.

These developments expose the lack of integrity of Arthur Defensor Sr. which is now a cause for hurt emotions for those who fell to his “knight in shining armor” propaganda. It shows that “word of honor” is absent in his character and this will define the full term of his administration.

The first development is the much-ballyhooed reinstatement of Dr. George Acepcion as chief of the Ramon Tabiana Memorial District Hospital in Cabatuan, Iloilo. Acepcion was stripped of his post by Gov. Tupas because of serious misconduct and strong sentiments expressed by his own subordinates against him. When Defensor assumed office, he made a big fuss about putting back Acepcion to his old post, saying this was the right thing to do.

Acepcion didn’t last long in Cabatuan. Before long, Defensor was swamped with complaints from rank-and-file employees about the dislikable traits of Acepcion as hospital chief. The Tabiana hospital in Cabatuan is perhaps the best-run hospital in the entire provincial system, and Acepcion’s return threatened to undo the good that’s been happening there.

It took Defensor only a month to realize it was a mistake to insist on putting Acepcion back to Cabatuan. Tupas was right after all. Grudgingly, he reassigned Acepcion to Dumangas and put back Dr. Sagra as head. It was a defeat that was just kept under wraps. No media hullabalo.

The second, and bigger, development involves the grant of hazard pay which Iloilo’s health workers had been demanding for several years now. This was subject of a court case initiated by the Iloilo Health Workers Association to compel the province to pay its members the hazard pay as far back as 1999. The court ruled in favor of the IHWA. When Gov. Tupas received the order last May, he decided not to challenge the ruling. He had stated before that he would respect the decision of the court.

One of the last things Gov. Tupas did was order the computation of the benefits that had accrued to the IHWA members. But as he was then about to step down at the end of his third and final term, he deemed it prudent to leave the implementation to his successor. Besides, he could not then ask for a budgetary appropriation. The province was operating under a re-enacted budget, and the law says he could not ask for a supplemental budget with an annual budget ordinance having first been enacted.

What happened? Defensor refused to pay the hazard pay for previous years to the dismay of health workers. He offered a compromise: he’ll start paying effective January 2010. This isn’t what Defensor had promised the health workers during the campaign. He promised to give them what was due them. Now he’s singing an entirely different tune.

This is like a sledgehammer blow to the leaders of IHWA who had believed Defensor’s campaign promise. This is double-cross. As one IHWA officer put it, agreeing to Defensor’s proposal would be an admission that Gov. Tupas was right after all. But Defensor is now taking a hard-line stance on this issue. “Take it or leave it,” he arrogantly told the IHWA.

The Defensor formula will prejudice those IHWA members who had supported the court case but have retired from the service before the case could reach its end. It means that years of their struggle will go up in smoke, with the older members holding an empty bag. Defensor has gotten what he wanted —- the IHWA support. And this apparently helped him win, considering his narrow margin of victory. But he isn’t thinking twice about turning his back on them.

Indeed, this is the price for trusting a leader who lacks integrity. In the dialect, the term “meresi” comes to mind.

Gov. Tupas could only smile in amusement at these unfolding events. He is having the last laugh. He is getting his vindication.

About Manuel "Boy" Mejorada
Manuel "Boy" Mejorada is a journalist and social media activist. A former Iloilo provincial administrator, he is now waging a crusade against corruption and narco-politics.

2 Responses to Vindication

    Capitol girds for protracted
    court case with health workers
    By Francis Allan L. Angelo
    The Daily Guardian

    THE provincial government is ready to engage health workers in a prolonged legal battle over their hazard pay and other benefits.

    Governor Arthur D. Defensor Sr. has secured authorization from the Sangguniang Panlalawigan to appeal the decision of the Regional Trial Court on the motion for reconsideration filed by the Iloilo Health Workers Association (IHWA).

    IHWA has appealed the RTC decision which favored the payment of hazard pay and other benefits from the provincial government as mandated by the Magna Carta on Health Workers.

    But the lower court’s decision was silent on the timeline and amount that the capitol should pay the health workers.

    Defensor had offered a compromise deal with IHWA to pay their benefits in 2010 and onwards.

    More than 70% of IHWA’s general membership approved the proposed deal but the board of directors failed to pass a resolution formally accepting the compromise.

    Despite the impasse, Defensor retained the P55 million allocated for the hazard pay and other benefits until IHWA has agreed with the compromise.

    Defensor said they are willing to go to the Court of Appeals should the RTC require the provincial government to pay the 10-year back benefits of health workers amounting to more than P400 million.

    Defensor said the some IHWA members misinterpreted the compromise as a one-time shot for 2010 only.

    “No, they will get their benefits from 2010 and onwards. As long as they are in service and the law is in effect, their benefits will continue,” the governor said.

    Defensor said the lawyer of IHWA might be looking for ways to get his attorney’s fees which was absent from the RTC decision.


  2. Well, what more can I say?

    During the campaign, Defensor told the health workers he would give them what was due them. The health workers took this as a promise that Defensor supported their legal claim.

    Too bad, Defensor has no word of honor.

    Now he is even threatening to fight the very people he had promised to help.



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