Partners in crime

The congressional race in the 2nd district of Iloilo can be narrowed down to two sides, even though there are three candidates for the position. No, it’s not about a third candidate being in poor third and the battle is confined to two front runners. It’s about good and bad. One guy represents good and two guys represent bad.

Corruption is the centerpiece issue in the May 13, 2012 elections for congressman. That’s because the incumbent, Boboy Syjuco, is so embroiled in so many corruption scandals that he has become the symbol of the worst corruption this country has known. For more than 14 years now, the 2nd district has suffered quietly because corruption siphoned off huge amounts of money intended for infrastructure and social projects under the Syjuco couple. Not contented with that, Syjuco also ravaged TESDA when he headed the agency.

The issues of corruption are being hurled by Pavia mayor Arcadio Gorriceta, who is the official candidate of the Liberal Party. For several years now, Gorriceta has put up billboards all over his municipality harping on honesty and integrity in public service, an apparent dig at Syjuco. This campaign on honesty and integrity is misleading; it paints Gorriceta as the paragon of honesty and integrity while Syjuco is not. It depicts a black and white comparison between two contenders for the throne.

However, Gorriceta is no better than Syjuco in terms of corruption. Gorriceta is no paragon of honesty and integrity. On a smaller scale, Gorriceta has a long string of corruption issues that puts him on even footing with Syjuco. Big or small, corruption is the same. Syjuco was just larger because he had access to a bigger pie. But the greed that drives both men to corruption is just the same.

In fact, Syjuco and Gorriceta became partners in one corruption case. In July 2004, Syjuco had a P5-million fund for his Education-for-All program which he needed to obligate through a local government unit (LGU). There was a catch: the program was just an avenue to siphon the money from government into the private bank account of Syjuco. It was a classic money-laundering scheme in which the LGU would provide documentation for the fictitious transaction in the supply of uniforms, bags and school supplies.

Syjuco was desperate because his scheme had been discovered by other LGUs. No municipal mayor was willing to serve as conduit for the laundering scheme. Syjuco struck a deal with Gorriceta, who had just won his first election. In exchange for the favor, Syjuco would give Gorriceta a 10-percent cut of the money. That’s a cool P500,000 in cash. And so the paperwork went through the motions, and Syjuco ultimately reaped off P5,000,000. True enough, he sent an errand boy to give Gorriceta a check for half a million pesos.

Gorriceta tried to disguise the bribe. He accepted the check, but got the municipal treasurer to issue an official receipt. The money went into the coffers of the LGU. Gorriceta made it look like he didn’t accept the money personally. Of course, those who understand how the LGU works knew better, because Gorriceta would just concoct his own fictitious transaction to collect the money.

By agreeing to the scheme, Gorriceta was already a conspirator to the corruption. He willingly gave Syjuco an opportunity to swindle the government, and the people. He knew about the fraud, because he asked me for advice, and I told him not to agree. He agreed nevertheless. And he did it because of the half a million pesos bribe that he got from Syjuco.

That one case alone is evidence that Syjuco and Gorriceta are cut from the same cloth. They are both corrupt. I will expose more schemes perpetrated by Gorriceta to show that he is a fraud when he claims to be honest and clean.

Which leaves us to the inevitable conclusion: among the three candidates for congressman, only Kiting Cabaluna is really clean. This guy hasn’t been involved in a single scandal involving corruption in his public service career. He is a simple man, committed to genuine public service. He is sincere. There is no doubt in my mind he is the logical choice for the good people of the second congressional district.

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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