Sweetheart deal

Anytime soon — if it hasn’t happened yet — the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA) will award the management contract for the soon-to-be-finished Iloilo Convention Center at the Iloilo Business Park of Megaworld Corp. in Mandurriao, Iloilo City.

The management of the ICC, which is expected to be finished at a “reduced” budget of P679 million by late June this year, is one of the conditions set by Megaworld when it donated the 1.7-hectare lot to the Department of Tourism as site of the facility.

And guess who will be the ultimate contractor to manage the ICC?

No other than Megaworld Corporation.

It will be a classic case of Megaworld having its cake and getting to eat it, too. It donated land which it bought at P2,500 per sqm. between two of its five-star hotels, Richmonde Hotel and Marriot Inn. Its act of “generosity” will reap enormous returns because it will now have a convention center at no cost to the company.

This was made possible, of course, by its benefactor, Senate President Franklin Drilon, who packaged the transaction that would cost the national government a whooping P679 million! It is a scam that is not likely to be investigated in earnest until a new administration comes along. As it is, Drilon enjoys the full protection of the “matuwid na daan” President, Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III.

But no matter how Drilon tries to deodorize the transaction, it is so rotten that its stink could be smelled as far away as Boracay, where I am writing this piece. Quite a number of people I met here groaned in dismay when the conversation turned to the ICC. That’s because the construction boom in Boracay hasn’t abated, and businessmen here know what it costs to build huge hotels and resorts. One businessman told me, “With that amount, I could have built a convention center with a five-star hotel.”

Hence, Megaworld will get the better end of the bargain when the ICC is completed, one that will be the envy of other big developers like SM and Ayala. It gave DOT a design for the ICC and it is getting it at no cost. All it needs to do is making a semblance of giving government a share of the income. With the ICC, it can market its two five-star hotels as venue for large national and international conventions. It is being handed over by the DOT on a silver platter.

The graft cases I filed against Drilon et al are now in the final evaluation stage in the Ombudsman. Am I confident that the Ombudsman will hold the principal characters culpable for the litany of violations of the government procurement law and anti-graft and corrupt practices act? Ultimately, the Ombudsman will be compelled to charge them. But maybe not soon enough. The Ombudsman is pre-occupied with running after the Binays.

The facts, and the law, are on my side. That’s the reason I can confidently say the Ombudsman will ultimately indict the respondents. The violations of law and policy are so glaring, and the defenses put up by the respondents have been weak. Most of them attacked me for supposedly saying I had no evidence when I appeared before the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee four months ago. Unfortunately for them, it’s not what I said that matters to the Ombudsman. It’s the evidence on the record.

In this case, I was able to turn the table around and used their own documentary evidence against them. This is the beauty of the law. Innocent-looking documents submitted by your opponents can prove more lethal to them. I take great pride in waging this battle because I was pitted against the best lawyers in the country. For a non-lawyer, it flatters me to be able to cause seasoned lawyers consternation and great labor.

There’s nothing I can do to stop the transaction. Drilon, in his speech during the Dinagyang, arrogantly boasted that no Ilonggo can derail his pet project. Of course, it wasn’t the project that I intended to stop. It was the wanton plunder that took place in the guise of implementing the project.

I am now just awaiting the Regional Trial Court of Pasay City to set my arraignment on the four counts of libel that Drilon filed against me. Facing Drilon’s libel charges against me is the greatest challenge ever to confront me. But I am not afraid. I know I am in the right. In the end, truth will triumph, and justice will be mine.

Ombudsman directs Mejorada, 2 Cabinet men and others to file position papers in ICC case

OPEN LETTER TO SENATOR T.G. GUINGONA III

Sir:

“Reject all forms of corruption that diverts resources from the poor.”

Those words were heard all across the nation from Pope Francis during his visit to the Malacanang Palace last Friday and reported extensively in mainstream and social media in the days afterwards.

I believe these words become more relevant to the work of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee which you chair.

On November 13, 2014, the Blue Ribbon Committee opened its investigation in aid of legislation into the alleged overpricing and other anomalies in the construction of the Iloilo Convention Center.

I believe it is the supreme duty of the Blue Ribbon Committee to pursue this investigation with a deeper sense of purpose and objectivity. The hearing on November 13, 2o14 barely scratched the surface of the anomalous transaction. Partly, it’s because the evidence I possessed at the time were circumstantial in nature. Second, there was palpable maneuvering by certain Senators, including Senate President Franklin M. Drilon, to prevent its Honorable Members from being able to fathom its depth and magnitude through the questioning of resource persons.

I appeal to you, Mr. Chairman, to give justice to the Filipino people, especially the poor, by ignoring party loyalty and bring to light the full scale of what is perhaps the biggest single instance of corruption in Philippine government. The Iloilo Convention Center is a giant monument of greed and lies, an ugly icon of the worst corruption that mars the platform of “matuwid na daan” upon which this Administration stands on.

I will come before this Honorable Blue Ribbon Committee with concrete evidence of how the fraudulent scheme was carried out, much of which came from the major players in the project. The evidence will establish beyond doubt how the ICC was used as a tool to divert and embezzle public funds from the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP). It will demonstrate how DAP was indeed prone to abuse and misuse, which was the primary reason it was struck down by the Supreme Court as unconstitutional and illegal.

With more certainty, I will show how the Government Procurement Reform Act was violated not just once, nor twice, but even thrice or more just to bring this evil plot to fruition. I will expose the lies and deceptions peddled by high-ranking public officials to cover up their flagrant acts of breaking the law. And with the power of subpoena wielded by this Honorable Blue Ribbon Committee, more documents to complete the true picture can be unearthed.

The Filipino people deserve to know the truth, Mr. Chairman. Please do not allow the Honorable Blue Ribbon Committee to be used as shield for the corruption it is mandated to expose, denounce and prevent by strengthening our laws. It has a sacred duty to expose corruption in all fronts, and not just confine itself to those committed by enemies of this Administration. Corruption wears all sorts of color and labels, and Liberal Party is not spared from this handiwork of the devil.

The nation puts much faith in your shoulders, Mr. Chairman. Please do not shirk from this responsibility. The very survival of this nation is at stake. The liberation of the poor from the bondage of poverty rests upon you.

Very respectfully yours,

MANUEL P. MEJORADA

Tear down the veil of hypocrisy

Many Ilonggos are angry to hear that our city grabbed the national limelight as the “bird’s nest of corruption” in the country.
They should be angry. Nobody wants to see our city gain such notoriety. And I equally angry and hurt to see it happen.
Why did I have to say that before the Senate? I have to let the entire nation know that corruption of unprecedented magnitude is draining the public coffers so rapidly, and there’s no effort to plug the leak.
The problem is not me. These Ilonggos should not turn their anger at me. They should be angry at the people who preside over this empire of corruption. Our city can never be great again if this continues.
Am I fabricating facts about corruption?
No. What I mentioned are just the more prominent of the graft-ridden projects we have seen in Iloilo City. At the lower level, we have the “tuklo” in the public markets, the procurement scandals in City Hall and traffic aides filching money from jeepney drivers.
If these people still don’t comprehend the magnitude of the problem, then, they too, become part of the problem.
We can never stop corruption for as long as we pretend not to se

Accountability, transparency take root in a Laguna barangay

My good friend, Eugenio “Jun” Ynion, Jr. has encountered rough sailing during his first 10 months as barangay captain of San Antonio, San Pedro City, Laguna. But the turbulence isn’t about to slow him down. Kap Jun is firmly erecting the pillars for a genuine, working model of a “zero-corruption”-based governance. In this age when even the helmsman of the “matuwid na daan” is beset by scandals involving corruption, Barangay San Antonio is demonstrating “zero-corruption” is not a Quixotic-venture. It is happening.

Kap Jun began his term of office at noon of Nov. 30, 2013. He hit the ground running, and has never called for time-out ever since. He quickly set his sights on peace and order, health and livelihood. Progress can never be achieved in his barangay unless he tackled the “fundamentals”, what he labelled as the “Three Ks” which stand for “Kapaligaran, Kalusugan at Kaunlaran”. With his compass set, Kap Jun worked tirelessly to make the lives of his constituents better. And in doing that, he always kept the “zero-corruption” advocacy as his center of gravity.10721308_10204276474767012_799003570_n

A YouTube video highlights the achievements of Kap Jun during his first 10 months. Along the way, he has had to endure black propaganda from an insecure City Mayor who felt threatened by his upsurge in popularity. Barangay San Antonio has the second largest number of voters in San Pedro City. It can easily place Kap Jun within striking distance of the mayorship if he sets his eyes on it.

What is significant about Kap Jun’s first leg of the journey is the no-nonsense adherence to the principles for accountability, transparency and honesty. From Day One, he scorned traditional politics. He made it known that he will not tolerate lazy and dishonest individuals in the barangay LGU, whether elected or appoint. “There will be no sacred cows,” he told his people, time and again. Unfortunately, there have been quite a number who didn’t take him seriously; quickly, they were shown the exit door.

Kap Jun runs the barangay the way he does his businesses. He rewards performance but shows little tolerance for slackers. Everybody is on their feet. To make sure there are no excuses for not being able to carry out their mission, Kap Jun procured the best possible equipment for the barangay. He wants to be ready for any eventuality, particularly in disaster risk management. Barangay San Antonio is perhaps the only one in the country with an amphibious vehicle to undertake rescue work during floods.

Early in his term, Kap Jun watched in frustration when a big fire devoured hundreds of houses in his barangay. The city’s sole firetruck was so decrepit and slow it arrived last. Maharlika fireWhen it reached the scene, it could not even start to help put out the fire. It was largely because of firetrucks from adjoining LGUs that the fire was prevented from causing more destruction.

Because of that experience, Kap Jun spent his own money to advance the payment for the barangay’s own firetruck. “Never again will I let that scenario happen,” he said. Aside from a firetruck, Barangay San Antonio has its own ambulance that provides constituents requiring transport to a hospital free services.

Education has become the centerpiece program of his administration. It is the only avenue that he can lay down for the poor so that they could liberate themselves from poverty, he said. His barangay has set aside huge amounts of money for scholarships in high school and college. Later in the month, lady volunteers led by his wife, Carissa Gonzales-Ynion, will embark on a “food-for-school” feeding program for indigent pupils. He understands that hungry pupils will find it hard to absorb their lessons.

What has triggered a wave of excitement in the barangay is the establishment of a micro-financing program Kap Jun has set up with a bank. For the first time, small entrepreneurs and would-be entrepreneurs can gain access to low-interest loans to fund their businesses. This micro-lending scheme will liberate micro-entrepreneurs from the usurious lenders that constantly keep them choked. Training programs are also being carried out to teach constituents simple skills they can turn into livelihood opportunities.

For Kap Jun, progress can never flourish in an environment where peace and order is not stable. This is the reason he invested heavily in improving the peace and order capability of his barangay. To improve mobility, he procured two Nissan pick up patrol cars and 10 motorcycles. Swift communications is ensured by 50 radio handsets for the barangay tanods and police in his jurisdiction.Barangay patrol motorcycles In less than two minutes, any call for help will be bring barangay tanods to the scene, he said.

Like any barangay, San Antonio has its share of the illegal drugs problem. But Kap Jun didn’t resign to the problem. He took the offensive tack. He offered cash incentives to the police and tanods for the arrest and capture of drug dealers in his barangay. To make sure these drug villains stay in jail long, he offered additional rewards for law enforcers who catch them with non-bailable offenses. So far, his program has netted 18 drug pushers, definitely a record in such a short time.

The environment is also top priority for Kap Jun. Among the first things he did upon assuming office was clean the streets. He adopted a strict rule on uncollected garbage. To promote responsible solid waste practices, he put up huge garbage bins in strategic locations where people can dump their “basura”.  He has made tree planting a regular activity in the barangay. His goal is plant 20,000 trees to make San Antonio a green community.

Kap Jun showed that when he pushed for environmental protection, everybody in the barangay will have to take it seriously. Early this year, a tire rubber recycling company continue to spew dirty and putrid smoke into the air in violation of environmental laws. Without delay, Kap Jun went knocking on the gates of the company with a simple message: clean up or shut down.

His sterling performance is not going unnoticed. One incumbent city councilor of San Pedro City remarked that Kap Jun’s brand of leadership is not only for his barangay, but for the entire city. No wonder Mayor Lourdes Cataquiz is perturbed. For an administration rocked by corruption scandals and poor services, it’s not hard for Kap Jun to gain the admiration and support of many people who want him to bring his leadership to a higher plane.

Indeed, Kap Jun has proven that the way to good governance is accountability and transparency. It is an effective approach to building confidence in the community. Now more and more of his constituents are excited about more and improved services. Many are also enthusiastic about sharing their good fortune from Kap Jun’s exemplary leadership with the rest of San Pedro City.

Distorted sense of priorities

car keysThe Cataquiz administration in San Pedro City, Laguna showed it has a distorted sense of values, and priorities, when it gifted barangay captains except one with brand-new cars. The only barangay captain who didn’t get a car was Kap Eugenio “Jun” Ynion Jr. of Barangay San Antonio. That’s because the Cataquiz administration — a modern day conjugal affair at the city hall — found Kap Jun “unsupportive” of the Association of Barangay Captains. In short, Kap Jun isn’t one who licked their behinds.

For an LGU which could not even buy a new firetruck and ambulance to serve the needs of its constituents, the purchase of the vehicles was a criminal waste of public funds. It catered to a wrong set of needs — luxury and prestige — rather than the needs of the community. In a story ran by the Philippine Daily Inquirer, ousted city mayor Calixto R. Cataquiz said the move was impelled by the need to give the barangay captains “prestige”. His wife could not stand seeing barangay captains arrive in meetings “wearing barongs and get down from old cars,” he said.

San Pedro City information officer Sonny Ordonez also downplayed the brewing political rivalry between Cataquiz and Ynion as the reason why he was left out of the list of recipients.

Kap Jun doesn’t really mind having been omitted from the list. He has more cars to his name than he and his family needs. He is appalled that the LGU wasted scarce public funds for a clearly luxury item that has little impact on public service. “What does prestige have to do with the effectiveness of a barangay captain?” he asked.

Upon assuming office as barangay captain, Kap Jun has embarked on a “zero corruption” platform of government that seeks to maximize the utilization of the barangay’s P35 million annual budget. Among other things, he bought basic medicines at ultra-low prices at levels enough to last a whole year. The medicines are given out free to indigents; those who are employed pay super low prices for them. He surprised his own constituents when he purchased a firetruck using personal funds. His barangay has its own ambulance and three brand-new Nissan pick-ups for its barangay tanods.

This brand of public service apparently doesn’t sit well with the Cataquizes. “They don’t like somebody undressing them as corrupt and incompetent,” one resident told me two weeks ago when I visited San Pedro City. By simply doing what he does, Kap Jun has shown the people the vast difference between corrupt governance and “zero corruption” governance. In less than a year as barangay captain, Kap Jun is now being talked about as the next city mayor of San Pedro City, a prospect that frightens the incumbents.

With the national publicity given to the “cargate” issue, public attention will likely deepen into the comparative performance of Cataquiz and Ynion. The Cataquizes want to pamper the barangay captains with “toys for the big boys”; Kap Jun is seeking new and innovative ways to deliver more services to his people.

I learned that native-born people in San Pedro are called “taal”, as in “taal San Pedro”. Kap Jun is not “taal”, but based on feedback I have gathered, people in the community are gravitating towards him because he shows he cares for them more than the “taal”. One strong indication for them is the sense of values between the Cataquizes and Kap Jun. They aren’t falling for a distorted sense of values.

The reign of deceit

I never gave this affair about Jed Patrick E. Mabilog being nominated for a supposed “World Mayor” award until my friend, lawyer and journalist Teofisto “Pistong” Melliza, shared on my Facebook wall a campaign poster seeking voter support for the Iloilo City mayor among netizens.

What struck me as incredible was the statement that Mabilog is the only Philippine city mayor who was nominated to the top 25 local chief executives from around the world to vie for this award. It revealed much about what this supposed award is all about. It is a racket.

No sensible organization would confer an award as “World Mayor” on the basis of online votes by email. That method of selection could never qualify as a credible reflection of the sentiments of people from around the world. It is a deceitful ploy that will only help vultures gobble up more prey.

Inside me, I feel hurt that still a considerable number of Ilonggos are falling prey to this racket. In City Hall, officials and employees are allowing themselves to be used as tools to promote the deceit. In doing so, they are devoured by the scam and become deceitful themselves. For everybody knows Mabilog is not material for such an award if that were a legitimate one.

One just needs to look around the city to know that Mabilog can’t even qualify to be the best mayor of Iloilo City in its history. In almost every aspect of governance, Mabilog has done poorly. If there is one area where he excels, it’s in what I call “cosmetic governance”. This guy knows how to embellish an ugly picture to make it look good.

Right now, there is a public uproar over the frequent brown-outs in Iloilo City. There is hardly a day when the city is not hit by a power outage. In the past, power interruptions were caused by weather disturbances such as a thunderstorm, which caused tree branches to break and hit power lines. Lately, however, brown outs occur even in calm weather. The outages happen without obvious causes.

But Ilonggos have never heard their city mayor castigate Panay Electric Co. for its deteriorating service. Mabilog has kept unusually quiet as most of the people curse PECO for these brown outs. It’s as if Mabilog has been deaf about the people’s gripes about electrical services. The situation has turned so bad that Philippine Daily Inquirer ran a story about it. Still, Mabilog remained mum about it.

Well, Mabilog has been more vociferous on the water supply problems of Iloilo City. However, his words are never backed up by action. Four years ago, Mabilog said he would lead a picket march against the Metro Iloilo Water District unless it put an end to its inability to supply water to the city’s households. Nothing happened. Time and again, Mabilog would raise his shrill voice against MIWD. It never went beyond words.

The same thing could be said about Mabilog’s handling of the city’s garbage, crime, traffic and other major problems, to include health and sanitation. In all these areas, his performance could be described as dismal failures. He is so pre-occupied with “beautificaaation”. However, he forgets the problems can’t be hidden with cosmetics.

To my mind, Mabilog resorts to deceitful methods to hide his incompetence. He doesn’t know his job, but he doesn’t want to admit it. He needs camouflage to make him look good. He needs awards and titles to polish and shine his otherwise lackluster image. He makes heavy use of cosmetics, false eyelashes and wigs to accomplish this. Of course I use that in a figurative sense.

But there is one image that comes to mind when I think about Mabilog’s deceitful stratagems. Two years ago, he asked his media handlers to compose a “before and after” poster of his supposed achievements in cleaning up the Iloilo River. The left side of the poster showed a colony of shanties spilling over the banks of the Iloilo River, with Gaisano City in the background. The right side of the poster showed that portion of the riverbank cleared of the ugly shanties. Mabilog claimed it as his accomplishment.

Everybody knows that these squatter shanties were removed from the riverbank way back in the late 90s as part of the Iloilo River improvement project of Senator Franklin Drilon. The occupants were relocated to a village in Pavia, Iloilo. Mabilog was not yet in public office. And the improvement of the place was also upon the instance of Drilon one or two years after the structures were removed.

In short, Mabilog claimed credit for something he had nothing to do with. He shamelessly did it to project a positive image of what he had supposedly done for the Iloilo River for an upcoming international summit which Iloilo city was hosting. Such dishonesty tastes like bile, and no decent individual would consciously do it.

And so now, we see Mabilog aspiring for a lofty-sounding title as “World Mayor”. He hasn’t even started to do his job right, and he is trying to snare another false, empty, hollow title to his name.

Drilon’s ‘Midas touch’

Not a few people raised their eyebrows last Sunday when Senate President Franklin Drilon boasted that by this time next year, the City of Iloilo will be inaugurating the P1 billion state of the art Convention Center at the Iloilo Business Park of MegaWorld.

It’s not because they doubted that the Convention Center will indeed by completed by then. The construction of the project has commenced on a 1.6-hectare lot at the heart of the old Iloilo airport in Mandurriao. The reaction was triggered by the amount mentioned by the Senate President as the project cost — P1 billion.

How did the project cost escalate to P1 billion?

When the project was announced back in February 2012, the estimated cost for the convention center was only P350 million. Then in the middle of 2013, the figure rose to P400 million. Towards the last quarter, it had become P470 millon. (The approved budget for the contract as advertised by DPWH was P478 million).

And now Drilon announced the total cost is P1 billion!

Nobody has bothered to tell the people the reasons for the creeping increases in cost estimates, and now this giant leap.

Perhaps it’s the product of Drilon’s “Midas touch”. It’s the same phenomenon that was observed in other infrastructure projects he initiated for Iloilo City. Of course, everybody knows the rise in prices isn’t the result of a legitimate increase in the cost of construction materials. The overprice goes to a bank account that is getting fatter and fatter and fatter every day.

It doesn’t end there. Just this morning, it was reported over RMN 774 (as disclosed by Atty. Pistong Melliza on Facebook) that the convention center, once completed and operational, will be turned over to a private entity for the management and supervision. Does this mean the government will not earn anything from its bloated P1 billon investment?

Plunder and unexplained wealth complaint versus Senate President Franklin M. Drilon

Plunder and unexplained wealth complaint versus Senate President Franklin M. Drilon

 

Drilon faces graft raps before Ombudsman

http://www.scribd.com/doc/166912674/Graft-raps-vs-Senate-President-Franklin-M-Drilon-over-pork-barrel-scam-in-Iloilo-City-filed