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A QUESTION OF PRIORITIES

In 2013, as Senate President Franklin Drilon poured more than P2 billion into roads and bridges for Iloilo City, he set aside a measly P50 million for the retrofitting of the Ramon Avancena Hall of Justice after it was damaged by the February 6, 2012 earthquake.
Drilon ignored the pleas of judges, prosecutors, lawyers and the general public to demolish the building because it was condemned as structurally weak, and posed a danger to its occupants, and build a new one.
Drilon said there was no money.
But only 3 kilometers away, Drilon was pouring P153 million per kilometer on a road widening project which most Ilonggos felt wasn’t even necessary.
He didn’t find it important enough that lives are at stake.
Anyway, the retrofitting was completed early this year. Is the building now safe?
Judges, prosecutors, lawyers, court personnel and litigants who have to work under its roofs are not convinced.
They are complaining that the same swaying motions of the floor that was observed before the February 6, 2012 earthquake could still be felt. Cracks have started to be noticed in critical parts of the building.
Drilon should pray that Iloilo City won’t be hit by a strong earthquake.

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NGOs

http://thedailyguardian.net/index.php/iloilo-opinion/41745-ngos

‘Change’ reverberates in Iloilo’s 2nd district

Long before the period for the filing of certificates of candidacy even started, two contenders for the congressional seat for the 2nd district of Iloilo Province began slugging at each other and tear each other’s throats.

Incumbent 2nd district Rep. Augusto Boboy Syjuco and Pavia municipal mayor Arcadio Gorriceta used the radio airlanes and billboards to attack each other on issues of corruption as if elections were around the corner.

The level of conflict between Syjuco and Gorriceta is expected to intensify now that both have filed their COCs. Syjuco is running under the United Nationalist Alliance. Gorriceta is the handpicked candidate of his bosom buddy, Senator Franklin M. Drilon.

However, voters in the 2nd district aren’t as excited over this slugfest as they are with the entry of Kiting Cabaluna into the race, making it a three-cornered battle for the 2nd district. Cabaluna is presently serving as party-list congressman under the 1st Consumers Alliance for Rural Energy (1-CARE).

Cabaluna’s name surprisingly emerged as the front-runner in a three-way fight in a survey commissioned by a businessman recently for Gov. Arthur Defensor Sr. Syjuco and Gorriceta were “statistically tied” but Cabaluna, who had then yet to announce his candidacy at the time the survey was conducted, already took a commanding lead.

“The emergence of Cabaluna’s name surprised many,” said a source who helped analyze the survey results. Cabaluna was a “fresh name” who didn’t even figure in the early conversations about the 2nd district, the source, who asked not to be identified, said. “In fact, at first we couldn’t understand why his name cropped up because we didn’t know him,” he added.

Indeed, Cabaluna is now generating ripples of excitement across the 2nd district. From out of nowhere, a home-grown native son has stepped forward to challenge the monolithic political machinery of the Syjucos, who had ruled over the 2nd district since 1998. “He is truly one of their own,” commented the poll survey expert who talked with this writer. The 2nd district has grown sick and tired of “strangers” just parachuting into the place and claim political supremacy. For the first time, a true-blooded son of the 2nd district is seeking to become congressman.

If Cabaluna’s upsurge in the survey caught a few people by surprise, it’s probably because this three-term vice mayor of Leon, Iloilo keeps a low profile. “Kiting is quiet and unassuming, doesn’t talk much and just works and works,” said a friend from Leon, Iloilo. A lawyer by profession, he joined the Tupas administration as legal officer in 2002, and provincial legal officer in 2005. He became president of the Iloilo Electric Cooperative I (Ileco I) in 2007-2010.

Cabaluna won a seat as party-list representative in the May 2010 elections. In that capacity, he made sure that the 2nd district got a substantial portion of his pork barrel because its eight municipalities had been starved for too long because of corruption. In a way, local leaders in the 2nd district adopted him as “surrogate” congressman, because Syjuco ignored the needs of his constituents.

 

Odious and repulsive Liberal Party bet

The Liberal Party in the 2nd district is in a quandary.

Senator Franklin M. Drilon pushed for the nomination of his friend, Pavia mayor Arcadio Gorriceta, to be the congressional candidate to run against incumbent Boboy Syjuco.

However, in a meeting between Gov. Arthur Defensor Sr. with 2nd district mayors the other night, a consensus emerged. Not a single mayor in the other seven towns of the 2nd  district approved of the choice. They made it clear to Defensor they won’t support Gorriceta.

The municipal mayors expressed their support for incumbent party list Rep. Salvador “Kiting” Cabaluna III.
Gorriceta has an odious and repulsive personality, the mayors told Defensor. The mayors even wanted to take a straw vote in the presence of Drilon, an idea that he shot down quickly to avoid embarrassment.
Now Drilon is trying to persuade former Gov. Niel Tupas Sr. to ask Cabaluna not to run. Unfortunately for him, Cabaluna is a man of his own. While he may have served under Tupas before, his decision cannot be swayed by his former boss.
Cabaluna is all set to run, according to my sources. He is emerging to be the strongest challenger to Syjuco. Gorriceta is likely to place a poor third. If this happens, this will be a repudiation of Drilon’s so-called leadership in the province of Iloilo. Drilon is now being exposed as a fraudulent leader in Iloilo province and city.

Bulk water

Just last week, Pavia municipal mayor Arcadio Gorriceta paraded over local media what he described as a trailblazing achievement for a local government unit (LGU) when he signed a bulk water supply contract with Pilipinas Water, Inc. Under the contract, Pilipinas Water is supposed to build a multi-million peso water filtration and treatment plant that would turn water from the river into potable drinking water. It’s supposed to be another feather in the cap of Mayor Gorriceta.

But almost immediately, the contract drew unfavorable reactions after apparent legal infirmities were discovered.

First, what was the legal basis for the LGU embarking on such an endeavor? Is it a contract for services that is governed by the Government Procurement Act? Or is it an undertaking in the purview of the build-operate-transfer (BOT) law? How did Pavia get to choose Pilipinas Water as the private partner for the project? Will it involve the expenditure of public funds? What studies were made the basis for the project? Were there public hearings?

Second, there’s the issue of transgressing an exclusive turf of the Metro Iloilo Water District (MIWD). Pavia happens to be within the franchise service area of MIWD, and it is apparent the scandal-rocked water district had no participation in the scheme. Did the contract intend to sell and deliver potable water to households in Pavia? If so, that would run afoul with the law. You can’t just barge into a service area unless a waiver of sorts is issued. And even if MIWD doesn’t object, how will Mayor Gorriceta distribute the water to Pavia households? MIWD is not going to allow them to use its pipes in Pavia. Will he deploy water tankers to go around and sell water to his constituents by the gallon?

Apparently, Mayor Gorriceta rushed head-long into this project with profits in mind. He didn’t think about the legal and practical considerations. This is an embarrassing twist for a man who likes to comport himself as a “super-mayor”. It’s DOA — dead on arrival. Now he will have a hard time explaining to his constituents why he can’t deliver water.  Next time, he’d profit more if he adhered to the railroad crossing sign that says, “Stop, look and listen.”

Cadio’s letter

Pavia mayor Arcadio Gorriceta likes to think of himself as “Mr. Clean.” He constantly talks of honesty and integrity in government. He puts up billboards condemning corruption. If clean governance can have a poster boy, Gorriceta will rush forward to grab the role. And, lately, he has embraced the duty to advise the Aquino administration, through a presidential sister, on quality of people to be appointed to key positions.

This came to light a few days ago after I obtained a draft letter addressed to Ms. Ballsy Aquino-Cruz to recommend a well-known businesswoman, Teresa Chan, to the position of Presidential Assistant for Western Visayas. The signature line on the letter showed the name of Gorriceta. Its authenticity would have been doubtful if only I didn’t recognize the handwriting of Gorriceta on several portions of the document.

What’s wrong with Gorriceta writing a letter of recommendation to the President’s sister? If it were just that, I wouldn’t have complained. But the letter contained a pernicious and malicious lie to disparage the image of the entire Tupas family. The intention to malign the Tupases was glaring, and I felt this had to be exposed.

The lie was the newspaper clipping that he attached to the “Dear Ballsy” letter. It was a planted op-ed article under a fictitious name, Romeo Cabaluna, that appeared on July 21, 2010, a day before Gorriceta sent the purloined letter. Both article and letter were written by one and the same person, Jose Nereo C. Lujan. Don’t ask me how I know. I just know. The article was an false indictment against the administration of Tupas, something that Lujan has been writing about for quite sometime. With the article clipped to the “Dear Ballsy” letter, Gorriceta wanted to poison the mind of Ms. Aquino-Cruz, and perhaps goad her into blocking any appointments for the Tupas clan.

Gorriceta makes the mistake of thinking ordinary mortals are incapable of seeing through his schemes. But one doesn’t need an IQ of 140 to figure out the scam. How else can Gorriceta destroy the reputation of the Tupases than presenting an “opinion” piece from a newspaper to validate his point? Manufacture the evidence, it’s that simple! Which is exactly what he did. The article comes out along with the draft letter for his approval.

Has anybody heard of a Romeo Cabaluna writing for The Daily Guardian aside from this July 21 op-ed piece? It was a one-time performance. And even if this guy was who he said he was, how can Gorriceta say that the opinion of one writer reflect the true public image of former Governor Tupas? He even picked the wrong platform: The Daily Guardian is closely linked to Rep. Ferjenel Biron, bitter political rival of Tupas in the last elections. The bias of the paper becomes apparent.

Anyway, the treacherous ploy isn’t likely to work. President Noynoy Aquino is not about to let a schoolboy’s prank to cloud his judgment of a political leader he highly esteems. Governor Tupas is an original Liberal Party member who had fought political battles with the late national hero, Ninoy Aquino. The President knows how hard Tupas had worked to bring about his victory in Iloilo province, where rival Manny Villar had initially led in the surveys. He is so unlike Gorriceta who switched to the LP when he was rejected by Villar, under whose party he tried to push his way in.

Let’s turn our attention to Gorriceta who, by the way, confessed to authorship of the letter over Bombo Radyo. Hence, the authenticity of the document is established.

Is he the “Mr. Clean” that he projects himself to be? Is he the poster boy for clean and honest government?

The stink that emanates from the long list of anomalies associated with Gorriceta provides a clear answer to the questions. NO!

  • Gorriceta is a self-confessed bribe taker. In 2004, he accepted a check from Boboy Syjuco for P450,000 as “commission” for allowing the Pavia LGU to serve as conduit in the laundering of a P5-million government fund to the Tagipusuon Foundation. Despite the glaring discrepancies in the paperwork, Gorriceta approved the full release of the entire fund to the foundation, thereby becoming an accomplice to the crime.
  • Gorriceta implemented, without a valid bidding, the P12-million asphalting project in Pavia, Iloilo in 2007 which turned out to be severely substandard. The asphalt was damaged only a few months after it was laid because its thickness was much, much less than was specified. When the floods brought by Typhoon Frank hit Pavia, the remainder of the damaged asphalt was swept away. This project was given special mention during a Senate investigation conducted by Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago last year.
  • Gorriceta cornered the bulk of the earth material excavated from the flood control project and used it to backfill several properties he owned. As a result, the value of his properties went up greatly, while constituents who desired to get a few truck loads were greatly disappointed.
  • COA chided Gorriceta several times for spending public funds to print calendars that displayed his photograph. He also spent government money for stickers on notebooks given to school children. This is considered inappropriate expenditure of public funds. On top of this, many other expenditures of the LGU were thumbed down by COA for being illegal.
  • While he was still a director of PanayFed, an organization of sugar planters in Iloilo province, Gorriceta was caught to have taken away about a million pesos from its coffers, without authority. At first, he denied it. But then, receipts were produced, some of which were signed by his wife, showing that the money was indeed in his custody. He repaid the money in installments.

The list could go on and on. My objective isn’t to indict Gorriceta. It’s just to show he isn’t what he claims to be. In fact, he could be worse than Boboy Syjuco. He should stop pretending to be somebody he isn’t.