Second look


Iloilo governor Arthur Defensor Sr. is a pitiable sight each time he faces the media. Much as he would like to put some punch into the way he talks, his voice sounds scrappy and thin, a far cry from the orator that he was in the 80s. It is apparent every word requires a Herculean effort for him, and he is like a toddler learning how to speak when he gropes for words and even connect them to each other.

But Defensor is even more pitiable when he tries to jump into the controversies surrounding the new Iloilo City Hall. A few days ago, Defensor was quoted by friendly media as wanting to seek another investigation into alleged overpricing of the Iloilo Capitol when it was built between 2001 and 2003. His basis? A reckless statement of Conrado Goco, president of the Pacific Orient Construction Management Co., that the construction cost for the Capitol was higher than the new City Hall.

Desperate to pin down his predecessor to perceived anomalies in government transactions, Defensor quickly grabbed the ball and signified his desire for a “second look”. The reader might ask: why second look? That’s because Defensor wasted millions of pesos in a witch hunt for supposed overpricing in the New Capitol construction when he was still a congressman and chairman of the House committee on good government. That investigation yielded nothing.

Now Defensor is hopeful Goco’s statement will score him some points in his efforts to link former Governor Niel Tupas Sr. to wrongdoing. Poor fellow. He had the power and resources to discover such anomalies in the Capitol construction if indeed there were. But after more than two years of probing, he failed in his mission. Will Goco’s statement change that? No.

It doesn’t take a math genius to make a comparison. The Capitol is six floors with about 15,000 sqm. in floor area. The City Hall is 14,000 with seven floors. The Capitol has a wide parking area with cobble-stone surface and lamp posts. The City Hall doesn’t have a single parking slot. The Capitol is surrounded by a steel fence. The City Hall isn’t. The Capitol’s total cost of development was P428 million. The City Hall, as projected, is P720 million.

So how can Defensor hope to prove his theory that the Capitol is overpriced?

Anyway, the stench is now so overpowering in the Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) in the Iloilo provincial government that several members have even resigned. The purchase orders (P.O.) for several big transactions have not been issued six months after the bidding. Is this the result of “failure to clinch the SOP?” The Commission on Audit (COA) should look into this. Because of this, much-need medicines and supplies have not been delivered. Services have suffered.

Suppliers are also complaining that payments are unreasonably delayed. The officials involved in the procurement process are busy facilitating the transactions whose suppliers were quick to come across. It is a shameless display of greed and corruption that many employees at the Iloilo Capitol can only frown upon.

The corruption that Defensor is searching is happening right under his nose! But he is being kept blind by a cordon sanitaire that’s exploiting his weak health condition. Those who have read Peter Jimenea’s columns are familiar with this story. And Peter Jimenea used to be an ardent admirer of Defensor and believer in his “Reporma kag Pagbag-o” campaign promise. Like Peter Jimenea, so many Ilonggos are disgusted at what is happening at the Capitol.

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.

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