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Boracay closure not only for rehab, but also for public safety

Tomorrow (April 26, 2018), what tourists had known as the paradise island will be closed to visitors, at least for six months to allow rehabilitation work to be carried out without hindrance. This is bite-the-bullet treatment imposed by President Rodrigo R. Duterte after an inter-agency task force validated the rampant violations of environmental laws and the building code in the over-congested island. Many businessmen and workers on the island protested that this measure is too harsh. “Punish only those who broke the law,” many resort owners urged.

Boracay

Government workers get ready to provide assistance to displaced workers in Boracay when it is shut down to tourists starting April 26. (Inquirer photo by Nestor Burgos)

But it’s not about finding out who did wrong and limit the fall-out to them and their employees. Boracay Island is now an ICU patient from the environmental point of view. Pictures emerging from the island last week showed the green algae growth on the beaches has gone up, an indication that the coliform level in the water has reached a dangerous point.

Hence, this closure is not only about a clean-up; it’s also protecting the tourists from possible diseases caused by coliform bacteria. It’s a public health issue that should not be ignored in favor of protecting businessmen and workers from the economic losses the closure will bring.

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Robredo’s lie exposed: There is no Comelec resolution allowing 25% shading

Where on earth did Leni Robredo get the idea that 25% shading of the oval constitutes a valid vote?

Robredo, through her lawyers, appealed to the Supreme Court, sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal, to reconsider its ruling to annul votes counted for her if the shading on the oval across her name failed to meet the 50% threshold, which was set by Comelec itself for the May 10, 2010 elections through Resolution No. 8804 promulgated on March 22, 2010.

Did the Comelec ever entertain the idea of partial shading below 50%? In Resolution No. 10113 promulgated on May 3, 2016, the Comelec stated expressly that: “The intent of the voters is expressing by fully shading the oval beside the name of the candidate. This is consistent with the instruction provided on the face of the ballot on how to vote.” The photo below shows particular section on the appreciation of ballots:

 

Comelec Resolution Shading Ballots

There is no Comelec Resolution or guideline allowing 25% shading as valid vote. This is what Comelec Resolution No. 10113 promulgated on May 3, 2016 states.

The PET rightly turned down the motion of Robredo to reduce the threshold of the shading to 25%. An estimated 5,000 votes in favor of Robredo have been nullified during the first two weeks of the manual recount as a result of the PET’s ruling that the threshold level should be 50% as stipulated in Resolution No. 8804 dated March 22, 2010 (See RULE 15, Section 6, paragraph “l” shown below).

Screenshot 2018-04-19 14.36.44

Robredo’s lawyer anchor their claim that Comelec allowed a 25% threshold of shading in Minute Resolution No. 16-600 adopted by the Comelec En Banc on September 6, 2016, or four months after the conduct of the elections. What does this resolution say? This resolution was adopted AFTER Senator Bongbong Marcos had already filed his Electoral Protest at this time based on massive cheating. What it did was “adopt and confirm” the memorandum dated September 6, 2016 — submitted on the same day — by Commissioner Luie Tito F. Guia, Oversight Commissioner for the Random Manual Audit. It had no force of law.

Letter to PET

And it’s worthwhile examining this memorandum of Commissioner Guia submitted on September 6, 2016, and subsequently adopted and confirmed by the Commission En Banc. Commissioner Guia acknowledged that Comelec guidelines require that voters shade the oval FULLY, but added that the system was designed to read oval shading of “about 25%” as a valid vote. What is the basis of this? It was Smartmatic that did this without authority from the Comelec on Guia’s flimsy excuse that this guaranteed the right to suffrage of voters is not impaired.

Question: Can Smartmatic override the law? Apparently no, which is the reason why the Supreme Court rejected Robredo’s motion to reconsider those votes that were nullified for failure to meet the 50% threshold.

Now these documents deserve deeper investigation. Was this part of the grand cheating scheme of the Liberal Party as carried out by then Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista? For me, it is. We have to keep in mind the elections were over and done, and all that remained to be done was a manual recount of the ballots. Bautista changed the rules of the game after the final horn had sounded, obviously to make sure insufficiently shaded ballots for Robredo would be counted in her favor.

 

A genuine public servant

boboy tupas with binky on bancaBeing congressman of the 5th District of Iloilo requires Boboy TupasFive to take long boat rides, often on choppy waters, to reach his constituents. On Sunday he took his wife Binky April Montesclaros Tupas to Isla Gigantes for the women’s month celebration and hold consultative meetings with the people. They were accompanied by Carles municipal mayor Ontoy Betita (in red shirt and flesh jacket).
Cong Boboy has shown genuine sincerity and dedication in the service of his constituents. He has also built his image brand of a simple, approachable and helpful public servant, most of the time wearing shorts and slippers when visiting far-flung barangays.

A family feud

Is the rift between City Mayor Joe III Espinosa and Congressman Jerry Trenas real?
Until now there are still doubts as to how deep this quarrel is, especially after executive assistants identified with Trenas were asked to step down from their posts last week.
Even I wasn’t so sure, knowing how far back the relationship between Joe III and JPT is. Both went into politics together, and nothing has come between them. Well, until recently.
It seems JPT has misjudged Joe III.
All these years, Joe III has played the role of loyal political lieutenant, just contented with whatever role his “bilas” gave him.
In 2010, JPT and Joe III, along with Jed Patrick Mabilog, formed the backbone of the political juggernaut that seemed destined to rule Iloilo City for a considerably long time.
But even as early as 2013, the question was where would Joe III go after JPT and Jed finished their third term in 2019.
A rigodon was expected to take place in 2019 with JPT and Jed switching positions, with Jerry reclaiming the city mayor position and Jed taking over as congressman.
A solution suddenly arose last year when JPT announced he was quitting politics. This removed a potential conflict because Joe III could then run for city mayor and Jed to become congressman.
Everything seemed headed for a smooth transition for the “Uswang, Sulong and Arangka” team.
Then, Jed was dismissed from public office based on two cases I had filed a few years ago.
With JPT no longer in the running as he declared, and Mabilog out for good, the coast was clear for Joe III to take.
He was now City Mayor, and he started planning for his eventual election to the position to which he succeeded. The game plan looked so simple. With JPT backing him up, Joe III seemed to have the position as City Mayor on a silver platter.
What the public didn’t know was that the relationship between the two in-laws was starting to deteriorate. Despite their affinity — their wives are sisters — JPT and Joe III haven’t communicated with each other for quite some time now.
Perhaps JPT regarded Joe III as the political lightweight who depended on him for his continued survival and thought the new mayor would just obey his every command.
Joe III must have felt he deserved some respect. After all, he was now the City Mayor. He was no longer the “sidekick” who just followed what the boss dictated as to his political future.
(To be continued)

THE POWER OF STORY TELLING

The victory of Boboy Tupas as Congressman of the 5th District of Iloilo is a demonstration that story telling is the most effective way to convey a candidate’s message to the people.
Not once did Boboy deliver a traditional political speech that was bombastic. Neither did he resort to mud slinging and below the belt attacks.
All throughout the campaign, Boboy remained humble and meek, the man who was always ready to turn the other cheek.Boboy Tupas is loved by the people
Several times, he was humiliated and insulted. His position as Vice Governor (and in some instances as Acting Governor) was disrespected. He was called names.
But Boboy never felt an urge to retaliate. He quietly accepted the blows and continued to preach core values about family, relationships, commitment to public service in stories that he told and retold.
And for the first time, Boboy put humor to good use. He was able to put his audiences at ease. He reminded them about his father, the late Governor Niel Tupas, Sr.
As I watched him go about his campaign, I felt confident as early as the last week of April that his victory was 101% certain.
That’s because Boboy gained the love and respect of the people of the 5th district of Iloilo. And not even the overwhelming resources of the administration was enough to stop his landslide victory.
At the last count with still about 10% of the votes left, he was leading his opponent, Atty. Gel Tupas, by a margin of 35,000.

Unfulfilled promises

When property developers sell subdivision lots, condominiums and other real estate property, they would always give out glossy brochures depicting a dream community where one would put his or her money to live and work.

In a mannner of speaking, property developers sell promises, because most of their sales are done even before the first bucket of concrete is poured into a building. Everything is presented from the architect’s perspective, and larger-than-life images of beautiful homes, parks, club houses, wide roads and street lights, swimming pools and other amenities are crammed into a brochure.

More than 15 years ago, this was exactly how Fil-Estate marketed the Puerto Real de Iloilo. It was billed as the most luxurious residential subdivision in Iloilo City, complete with sports and leisure facilities, well-lighted and spacious roads, mini-parks, and most importantly, adequate security to give homeowners a peace of mind.

The development came with a big bang. Fil-Estate was then riding on a property boom, and its name became synonymous with first-class living. There was an impressive kick-off party at the Amigo Terrace Hotel. All the big wigs were there.

True enough, the marketing ploy of Fil-Estate penetrated the consciousness of the moneyed-class in Iloilo City. Its subdivision lots were quickly gobbled up by rich businessmen and professionals. Living there was a stamp of class that many people desired and got. Or at least, so they thought at first.

It didn’t take long before homeowners realized they were duped.

The homeonwers at Puerto Real de Iloilo believed they paid for expensive lots to get facilities and services that would be commensurate with the price of the subdivision lots. The promised first class facilities and amenities never materialized.

Since then, Puerto Real de Iloilo was sold by Fil-Estate to the Global Estates Resorts Inc. (GERI), an affiliate of the Megaworld Corporation. Megaworld is also the developer of the Iloilo Business Park in the old Iloilo airport property and a partner in the Sta. Barbara Heights Subdivision.

A life of luxury and comfort was what the sellers promised the homeowners. For the homeowners, life in Puerto Real during the last 15 years has been like hell, a long struggle to compel the developer to make good on their promises.

What are some of the problems? For one, the club house and its amenities — basketball gym, swimming pool and tennis court — are in a state of disrepair. The roof over the basketball gym is leaking, and the other facilities neglected and badly need repair.

The road network in the posh (only in name, so the homeowners claim) subdivision are poorly maintained. At night, the roads are shrouded in darkness, and residents hardly feel safe about strolling after dinner.

Worse, there are still informal settlers in parts of the subdivision. The developer failed to provide them with relocation sites at the start of the construction. Now these people continue to live in the “pulo” where their shanty houses still stand. Some own work animals like carabaos and keep them in their compound. Puerto is where one can find carabaos loitering about, posing a grave danger to motorists.

A bigger issue is security: with poor families living in parts of the subdivision, the subdivision is having a hard time controlling the entry of people. It is a security nightmare for the homeowners.

For a long time now, the homeowners association has pressured the new management — a Megaworld affiliate — to plug the gaping holes in the contract and turn over the subdivision to them. The homeowners feel they could do a much better job looking after their own security and keeping the community clean.

The response of the Megaworld company has been to stall and delay. No progress has been made in the negotiations to bring the company to honor its commitments in the contract to sell. It continues to ignore the complaints of the homeowners.

To add to the problems of the homeowners, it was recently discovered that GERI owes the Iloilo City government more than P20,000,000 in realty taxes. The homeowners have pestered management about the tax indebtedness to the city. The overdue taxes remain unpaid until now.

The homeowners decided enough was enough. A few weeks ago, the association lodged a complaint before the Housing, Land and Urban Regulatory Board (HLURB) to seek remedial action.

Instead of trying to find ways to meet the homeowners halfway and reach a compromise, GERI retaliated by reducing the number of security guards who man the gates. It’s becoming obvious to them GERI is not repentant about its own inadequacies and downright breach of contract.

(In a statement to The Daily Guardian, Fil Estate on Puerto denied that GERI is involved in the project. This is being disputed by homeowners’ representative who talked with me.)

The message to the homeowners was loud and clear. Megaworld enjoys protection from the powers-that-be in Iloilo City, and would not budge even in the face of an administrative case. That the city government hasn’t taken legal action to enforce the P20 million tax liability is an indication that Megaworld is shielded by a culture of impunity.

This culture of impunity cannot be allowed to exist. The HLURB should strictly enforce contracts to which developers have bound themselves to fulfill. In this case, sanctions should be imposed on GERI and warnings given to other Megaworld affiliates. If HLURB rules and regulations are just scoffed at by developers like Megaworld, then property buyers who invest millions of pesos in the properties offered to them through glossy brochures are vulnerable to lose the value for which they paid for.

It is time government strengthens its capability to protect consumers. After all, a breach of contract is an assault on our legal institutions. Violators of the law such as GERI must be required to pay stiff fines and stripped of their licenses to operate. That is the only way to uphold the rule of law.

MRT fixes escalators, only for a few hours

What is it about the management of the MRT that it can’t even get fixed equipment to run for at least a few days?

On TV tonight, I watched a report on the triumphant boast of MRT management that it had repaired the escalators on its Quezon Ave station in Quezon City this morning.

However, the escalator worked only for a few hours. Then it conked out again.

This is indeed the trademark of the Aquino government as manifested through the DOTC and MRT, which Mar Roxas used to oversee: incompetence.