Press release

January 30, 2020

Front view


ICC lease contract ‘onerous’ – Mejorada


The lease contract awarded to an Iloilo-based company to operate and manage the Iloilo Convention Center four years ago is “onerous, lopsided and grossly disadvantageous to the government”, former Iloilo provincial administrator Manuel “Boy” Mejorada said.

In a six-page complaint filed with the Office of the Solicitor General on Tuesday, Mejorada said the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA) can expect to generate only P74 million in rentals over a period of 25 years, which is less than 10 percent return-on-investment (ROI) based on total expenditures of around P750 million.

Mejorada asked Solicitor General Jose Calida to conduct a review pursuant to a directive of President Rodrigo R. Duterte to look into onerous contracts between the government and private entities.

The contract should be “rescinded, revoked and nullified”, Mejorada said.

“This contract is the mother of all scams,” he said.

Mejorada also wrote a similar letter to Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat.

In his complaint, Mejorada said the lease, operate and manage (LOM) contract signed by and between TIEZA and Premier Islands Management Corp. on March 11, 2016 violated the terms of reference (TOR) issued for this purpose.

The TOR, for instance, used only P330 million as the “asset valuation” for the ICC, which is less than half of the actual expenditures, he said.

He said the actual expenditures of P750 million came from then TIEZA Assistant Chief Operating Officer Jethro Nicolas Lozada.

He said TIEZA removed the P300 million that was spent for the project from the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) in order to bring down the asset value and make the lease payments feasible to potential bidders.

“There was no legal basis in just writing off the P300 million from the books of TIEZA for the ICC,” he said.

It appears that then DPWH Secretary Rogelio Singson waived off the recovery of the DAP money spent for the project during a meeting of the TIEZA board, he said.

“That is a blatant violation of COA rules and regulations in the disposition of public funds, an act constituting economic plunder,” he said.

Moreover, he questioned the adoption of P330 million as asset valuation.

With the actual expenditures placed at P750 million, and the write-off of P300 million, there is still P120 million that is not accounted for, he said.

It is common practice among real estate developers to recover the capital investments after 4 to 6 years, he said.

“That means within that period, a 100% recovery of the capital is achieved,” he pointed out.

In the case of the ICC, the total amount of fixed annual revenues and percentage share of gross sales won’t even reach 10% after 25 years, Mejorada said.

Mejorada said this asset valuation doesn’t take into account the value of the 1.7-hectare lot on which the ICC stands.

At a conservative price of P30,000 per sqm., the lot itself was worth P510 million, he said.

“In real terms, the real value of the ICC for purposes of computing the ROI should be P1.25 billion,” he said. “And that is a conservative amount,” he added.

Mejorada said the TIEZA violated the TOR in awarding the contract to PIMC.

“First, the indicative fixed annual revenue of 1% of the asset valuation was P3.3 million for the first year,” he said.

However, the contract set the fixed annual revenue for the first year at only P1.2 million, he said.

He said the percentage share from gross revenues in the ICC operations was fixed at 15% for each year.

But in the contract, the percentage share was only 5%, he added. (30)



Picking the next PNP chief

I was writing this article when news came out on my Google feed that President Rodrigo R. Duterte was coming home earlier than scheduled due to “unbearable pain” that apparently was caused by his motorcycle accident last week.

Senator Christopher “Bong” Go on Tuesday posted a picture of the President with his head resting on a cane that he had been using while attending the enthronement of Emperor Naruhito in Japan. He is scheduled to see his doctor upon arrival in Manila.

I am praying this pain is not due to a life-threatening injury as a result of the accident.

An important decision also needs to be made by the President upon his arrival. With the resignation of erstwhile PNP chief General Oscar Albayalde, the Philippine National Police needs to regain traction and restore the morale of its policemen and -women in the entire archipelago. The charges that Albayalde had covered up for the ninja cops and even put them in key positions when he became PNP chief seriously damaged the PNP’s image as an institution. Respect for the badge and uniform was undermined.

With this in mind, President Duterte needs to choose carefully from among the nominees submitted by DILG Secretary Eduardo Ano. Three of the front-runners are PNP OIC Lieutenant General Archie Francisco Gamboa, deputy director for operations, P/Lieutenant General Camilo Cascolan and directorate staff chief P/Major General Guillermp Eleazar.

As an Ilonggo, and a Filipino, I am pushing for General Cascolan.

I have known Punky since he was a P/Chief Inspector more than 20 years ago. He has an unblemished track record. His performance has consistently been excellent. He is also actively campaigning for better benefits for retired Philippine Constabulary and PNP personnel. His heart is close to the men in the field. Respect for Punky is high.

The last aspect is critical at this point in the history of the PNP.

What the PNP needs is a leader with unquestioned integrity, an individual who has earned the trust and confidence of every man and woman in the organization. Cascolan is the man of the hour. His proven integrity will quickly repair the tarnished image of the organization. There isn’t a shadow of involvement in wrongdoing in his entire career as a police officer.

If the President doesn’t feel he wants Cascolan to be the PNP chief, then I believe the incumbent Officer-in-Charge, Lieut. Gen. Gamboa is equally capable and competent.

I watched his press conference a few days ago when he announced the dismissal of three policemen involved in the Nov. 29, 2013 fake drug buy-bust over another serious offense, I saw that he is cool and composed under fire. He is a good communicator, which is also a key skill that the next PNP chief needs to get it out of the rut.

As to P/Major Gen. Eleazar, I must confess that I don’t trust the guy. Besides, he was kicked upstairs by Albayalde just before his downfall in an apparent move to place him in contention for the position he was set to vacate.

Right now, anybody with a stain from Albayalde’s hand shouldn’t be given a key position. With the little I know about Eleazar, I could sense that he is clone of Albayalde. Even their moves, especially their penchant for bringing the media to document their surprise inspections, come from the same template. He isn’t an officer I would want to see as chief of the PNP.


There has been a great deal of discussion about the legal ramifications of the directive issued by President Rodrigo Duterte for nearly 2,000 convicts released under the controversial Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) law during the last several years.

President Duterte wants a review of the circumstances under which these convicts obtained their freedom in the wake of allegations that corruption was what drove prison officials to issue release orders en masse.

The convicts who have since been given back their liberty were ordered to “surrender” not later than today, September 19, 2019.

Quite a number of convicts have already reported to the nearest police stations in compliance with the directive. Nobody wants to mess around with the President’s order.

But there is a question on the status of convicts who were paroled, which is an entirely different process than getting freed under the GCTA.

In Iloilo, there’s a 79-year old man who was freed from prison two years ago after being paroled. Is he still required to be brought back to a penal colony in Mindoro while officials check his papers?

The PNP is not sure. It’s not their call to make a determination on that, the new Iloilo provincial director, Col. Roland Vilela, said. The PNP wants to be on the safe side and just remit the convicts to the BuCor facility in Mindoro.

Perhaps the Department of Justice should take cognizance of such cases and issue the corresponding clarification. It would be unfair for these individuals who have faithfully served out their minimum sentences to be sent back to jail again.

Bakit hawak pa ni Del Rosario ang diplomatic passport?

Teka, teka.

Matagal nang hindi Foreign Affairs Secretary itong si Alberto del Rosario, di ba?

Bakit hawak-hawak niya pa ang kanyang diplomatic passport? Sa pagka-alam ko, entitled siya sa diplomatic passport habang nasa serbisyo siya bilang DFA secretary. Dapat yan sinasa-uli sa gobyerno pagkatapos ng kanyang panunungkulan bilang DFA secretary. Kung baga sa driver’s license, expired na yan.

At wala namang kaugnayan sa gobyerno ang kanyang pagpunta sa Hongkong. Hindi lamang mga diplomats ang binibigyan ng diplomatic passports. Pati na rin ang mga matataas na opisyal ng national government. Ito po ay privilege upang hindi sila kailangan dumaan pa sa mahahabang pila sa immigration pagdating sa isang bansa.

Sobrang abuso na talaga itong mga dilawan.

Del Rosario

Dapat alam na ni Del Rosario kung ano ang aabutin sa HK

Malaking hasol ang nangyari kay dating DFA Secretary Alberto del Rosario doon sa Hongkong airport pagkatapos hindi ito pinayagan na makapasok sa bansa at pinabalik sa Pilipinas. Itinigil ng mga immigration officials ng Hongkong ang pagpasok ni del Rosario at pinasa-ilalim sa mahabang proceso na na-uwi lang sa pagtanggi ng entry. Walang dahilan na ibinigay ang HK authorities kung bakit pinabalik si Del Rosario.Del Rosario

Pero alam ng lahat na si Del Rosario, kasama si dating Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales, ang naghain ng reklamo laban kay Chinese President Xi Jingping sa International Criminal Court. At alam naman natin na iba ang batas at kultura sa China. Nangyari na noong buwan ng Mayo na hindi rin pinapasok sa bansa si Carpio-Morales.

So dapat pinasok na yun sa kaisipan niya na ganoon rin ang mangyayari sa kanya pag-sinubukan niyang pumasok sa Hongkong, na sakop na territoryo ng China.

Ito kasi ang problema sa mga dilawan. Akala nila magagawa nila ang kung ano man ang gusto nila pero ayaw rin nilang tanggapin ang negative reaction laban sa kanila.

Mga terminal na mas malinis, may libreng internet pa

Hindi na maiinip at mahihirapan ang mga pasahero sa bus, jeepney at barko sa buong Pilipinas. Noong Miyerkoles, pinalabas na ng Malacanang ang kakapirma lang ni Pangulong Duterte na batas na nag-uutos sa mga operator ng transportation terminals na ipasiguro ang malinis na mga facilities, lalo na ang CR at dapat may libreng Wifi pa sa mga naghihintay ng kanilang biyahe.

Ibabawal na ang paniningil ng “donation” sa gumagamit ng mga CR at kailangan malinis ang lugar upang mas comfortable ang mga pasahero habang naghihintay ng pag-alis ng mga bus, jeepney o barko.

Isa itong malaking hakbang ng Duterte administration tungo sa upgrading ng mga public infrastructure at mabigyan ang mga mamamayan ng magandang facilities na dati-rati ay pinapabayaan lang ng pamahalan nasyonal. Talagang ibang-iba na ngayon ang gobyerno.

bus terminal

Maritime accident sa Recto Bank

Hindi muna ako nagbigay ng aking opinyon tungkol sa nangyari na banggaan ng Filipino at Chinese fishing boats doon sa Recto Bank na ginagawang isyu ng mga dilawan laban kay Pangulong Duterte. Hinintay ko muna luminaw kung ano talaga ang nangyari at hindi ako sumakay sa bandwagon ng media.

o, eto na ngayon, inamin ng kapitan ng Filipino fishing boat na hindi niya nakita kung sino ang bumangga sa bangka niya. Ibig sabihin, wala nga siyang basehan na bentangan ang mga Intsik na sila ang bumangga sa bangka ng mga Pinoy.fishermen in distress

Dapat natin tandaan na napakaraming maritime accidents na nangyari sa ating kadagataan. Ilang beses na nangyari ang aksidente ng malalaking barko sa dagat kahit na completo ito sa mga radar at iba pang gamit upang malaman kung may panganib na parating. Kahit na napakalawak ng dagat, may banggaan pa rin kahit sa araw.

Tama po ang naging pahayag ni Pangulong Duterte na isa itong maliit na “maritime accident” na hindi kailangan palakihin na maaring makasira sa relasyon sa gitna ng Pilipinas at China. We have to be cautious when it comes to our international relations. Hindi basta-basta’t sumigaw tayo na handa tayo pumunta sa giyera na hindi pa natin alam ang kabuohang katotohanan.

Simple arrogance

I came across an ANC interview with outgoing Senator Antonio Trillanes a week ago. He was asked about the possibility that the tables might be turned on him with the plan of Senator-elect Bong Go to summon him and grill him on issues on the alleged destabilization plot against the Duterte administration.


This photo taken on September 13, 2017 shows Philippine Senator Antonio gesturing during an interview at his office in the Senate building in Manila. After launching his political career from a jail cell, Philippine Senator Antonio Trillanes believes it could end in a grave thanks to a relentless campaign against his “hitman” president. / AFP PHOTO / NOEL CELIS (Photo credit should read NOEL CELIS/AFP/Getty Images)

Trillanes sounded more muffled than his usual self. The bluster that he tried to project was somehow hollow. As in the confidence that he always projected had diminished. But one thing was clear to me: Trillanes is still an arrogant person. The bad news is that when he is summoned to appear before the Senate, he would find himself in the same position as the late DENR Secretary Angelo Reyes, vulnerable to humiliation before the public eye.

Trillanes is without honor anyway, and no amount of public shaming for his evil deeds can ever lead him to do what Secretary Reyes did: commit seppuku.

My reply to Ping Lacson

“Don’t advertise our weakness.”

This, in gist, was the reaction of Senator Ping Lacson to the President’s statement on the collision incident involving Chinese and Filipino fishermen in the West Philippine Sea.

“A maritime incident is a maritime incident. I will not issue a statement because there is no investigation and no result. Wait and give the other party the right to be heard. China, ano ba dito ang totoo (what is the truth here)?” Duterte said eight days after being silent on the issue,” the President said.

Lacson described the President’s statement as a “surrender”. The President should have explored other options like the Mutual Defense Treaty, he said.

Ping Lacson

“It’s bad enough that we’re weak but don’t advertise that we’re weak. Magtira ka naman ng konting baraha. (Leave some cards),” Lacson said.

My response:

First, there’s no need to advertise that we are weak military-wise. It doesn’t take a military strategist to figure this out. The Philippines is definitely no match to a military superpower like China.

Second, the President has information that most of us can’t get our hands on. The incident as told over media might not be like what it seems to be. He is the commander-in-chief, and he has solo prerogative on making a decision about what’s the best course of action.

If government wants to stop smuggling, then it should embrace XLOG technology

The country’s Bureau of Customs is leaking like a sieve, which explains why until now, smuggling of illegal drugs hasn’t abated. Shabu that is being sold on the streets of the archipelago are manufactured in China. There are no shabu laboratories in the country anymore. Several shipments worth billions of pesos have been intercepted, but this represents only a fraction of the shabu coming into the country. This leaves me wondering if President Duterte is raising his hands in surrender in the face of this pipeline of shabu flowing right under the noses of our customs bureau. Or put another way, it raises questions on whether the government even wants to stop smuggling of shabu.

This is rather tragic because putting a stop to smuggling could have been accomplished as early as the first quarter of 2018 with software developed by Filipino IT experts. Called “XLOG”, the software has been tested and retested, and consistently proved that the leaks in the system could be plugged permanently. It basically removes human intervention in the entire process, and with it, the opportunities for corruption.

If put to use by our Bureau of Customs, XLOG can eliminate delays in getting cargoes processed and released, and ensure that the government collects the right tariffs. What more can the government ask for? It will make exporters and importers happy, get rid of corruption, and increase collections. It’s a simple formula and it’s hard to understand why Customs officials refuse to embrace the technology.

On top of the crystal clear benefits it will bring to the government, XLOG is not even to cost the Bureau of Customs a single centavo. It is being offered entirely for free. All it needs to do is accept the technology, install the application at all ports of entry, and government will reap the rewards in one smooth movement. The technology has been proven effective in plugging the leaks in the present set-up. Government cannot possibly find a better solution to the smuggling problem and the corruption issue.

Of course, once in place, XLOG will eliminate corruption, which is perhaps the reason why there is resistance in the Bureau of Customs. No matter how many shake-ups will be carried out, the corruption will continue to plague the agency, for as long as officials are given broad discretion on letting a cargo shipment go through its checkpoints. Money, especially when it involves millions of pesos for a single transaction, can dilute the strongest of principles among officials.

Hence, we can only watch with despair as more and more smuggling take place on a daily basis at our ports of entry, both for sea and air cargo. We are losing the war, and government has only itself to blame. If Customs chief Isidro Lapena wants to change the situation, all he needs to do is get XLOG to come into the picture. It’s been waiting there on the sidelines. The picture can change in an instant: smuggling can be eliminated once the buttons for XLOG are pressed.