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.

‘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.