Politics is like mahjong

I was privileged to have served the late Governor Niel Tupas, Sr. as Provincial Administrator during his nine years at the Capitol. Every day was a learning session for me about politics. Talking with the man was like getting a one-on-one tutoring on the arts of politics, leadership and governance. Those nine years, I believe, make up the most exciting and memorable phase of my 59 years.Niel-Tupas

And there was one lesson that really sank into my consciousness about politics. It’s that politics should be devoid of hatred and bitterness. Politics is a vehicle for public service, and never as a means to pursue power for its own sake, and especially not to amass wealth. Politics is about being with the people, looking after their welfare, and using one’s power and influence to achieve that end.

Gov. Niel put it this way: “Politics is like mahjong. After an election, everything goes back to square one. The cards are shuffled (“ginabalasa”) and everybody gets a fresh start.” For him, acrimony has no place in his heart, which is perhaps the reason why Gov. Niel was so well-loved by his constituents and respected even by his foes. In the nine years I worked for him, I never heard him raise his voice in anger. It’s not that he never got angry; when he got mad, he would just frown and mutter a few words expressing displeasure. But then, he was always able to recover and get back in a good mood after a minute.

I will never forget what former 1st District Congressman, and now Guimbal municipal mayor Oscar Garin Sr. said two months after their 2004 gubernatorial battle. The two met at the Jaro Cathedral for the oath-taking of newly elected local officials. Then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo was the guest of honor. I was with Gov. Niel aboard his Nissan Patrol vehicle. Mayor Garin saw him and approached with a wide smile, extending his hand in reconciliation and friendship. Garin quipped: “Pati na gid man ako nga pirdi ang kwarta sa pikpik sa abaga (Now I believe that money can be beaten by just a pat on the shoulder).”

The elections had started as a close race between Gov. Niel and Mayor Oca. The latter had the edge in terms of money and logistics. But when the results came out, Gov. Niel had won by over 180,000 votes against Garin, who had never before experienced defeat in an election. Garin had the money; Gov. Niel had the love of the people.

With the national and local elections just a year away, I think it would be good for potential adversaries to ponder upon the wisdom of Gov. Niel in the field of politics. He never spoke ill of anybody. He was the type who would turn the other cheek if insults are hurled his way and get hit. He was always kind and helpful, never spiteful and arrogant.

Indeed, if politicians are looking for a role model, the late Gov. Niel would be the perfect leader to copy. He was the epitome of a genuine public servant and leader. He was Mr. Public Service.

Ward politics and the cacique mentality

I think it’s presumptuous for the likes of Peping Cojuangco to promise Tarlac votes for VP Jojo Binay.
It reflects the cacique mentality of many political leaders who look at their constituents as minions who will do as they order.
Most of our voters don’t decide on the basis of what their local leaders tell them how or who to vote.
In many elections, candidates won in places where the local “shieks” campaigned against them.
A classic case would be then presidential candidate Noynoy Aquino. In Iloilo province, most of the incumbent congressmen and municipal mayors in 2010 belonged to the Lakas of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. Yet Mr. Aquino triumphed in Iloilo in a thunderous way.
Another good example was the victory of my former boss, then Iloilo Governor Niel Tupas Sr. in 2004 in his re-election bid. He was challenged by former 1st district Congressman Oscar Garin. In the town of Janiuay, Iloilo, the two candidates for mayor were pro-Garin. To everybody’s surprise, Gov. Tupas won in that town by a huge margin.
It will definitely help to have a strong machinery at the local level. But it is not a guarantee.
Hence, on the other side of the fence, Secretary Mar Roxas shouldn’t entrust his fate to the local leaders who have pledged all-out support for him.
He should work on gaining broad support from the electorate and exploit the advantage of being the administration candidate to the hilt.

A giant comeback

The appointment of Janet Garin as DOH secretary completes the comeback of the 1st district political dynasty in the national stage.Janet Garin
It shows the political adroitness of the patriarch, former Congressman Oscar Garin, in jumping from one administration to another.
The Garins have never stayed out of the political loop of every administration for too long.
In 2000, Oca Garin was appointed by Pres. Erap as presidential assistant for Western Visayas. He hesitated. He accepted the appointment sometime in November 2000 or thereabouts. By January 2001, Erap was kicked out from office, leaving Garin drifting in the political ocean.
But true to form, Garin quickly got into the good graces of the Gloria Arroyo administration. Before long, he was appointed as chief of the Philippine Coconut Authority.
Garin was a marked man as far as Liberal Party leader Franklin Drilon was concerned. Drilon regarded him as a mortal enemy. Corruption issues flew thick in Garin’s wake. In 2010, Garin campaigned for Villar. When he saw that the victory of Noynoy was unstoppable, changed colors three days before the elections.
It was not enough to gain him entry into the good graces of the Aquino administration. He was ultimately removed as PCA chairman and once again stayed as a benchwarmer.
That changed, however, in 2012. Drilon embraced Garin to pave the way for a “unification ticket” for the Liberal Party. Garin’s wife and children all ran under the LP banner in 2013 and won. Janet Garin was appointed DOH undersecretary.
And now Janet is DOH secretary. Oca Garin must be wearing a big smile these days. He has once again outmaneuvered everybody, including the grand old man of the Liberal Party in Iloilo, Niel Tupas Sr.
Tupas, who sacrificed greatly for party platform and principles, does not even hold an appointive position.
I am not saying that Dr. Janet Garin is not competent. She is intelligent and capable. She might even make a good DOH secretary.
But the message is that this appointment conveys is that the Aquino administration has embraced traditional politics as a means to survival and strengthen its chances of getting a partymate to succeed H.E. Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III on June 30, 2016.

Unease at ‘united front’

Unease at ‘united front’.

Iloilo local leaders in limbo

wounded

via Iloilo local leaders in limbo.

The Mar Roxas blunder

In pushing aside a loyal Liberal Party leader in Niel Tupas Sr. to bring in Arthur Defensor Sr. and Oscar Garin, DILG secretary Mar Roxas has succeeded in reinforcing the winnability of the man he wanted defeated in next year’s gubernatorial race.

Original LP leaders in Iloilo province were so disgusted over the shabby treatment Roxas, and President Aquino, gave Tupas that they immediately packed  their bags and crossed over to the United Nationalist Alliance of Congressman Ferjenel Biron.

Now, Roxas only has Defensor, and Garin, to fend for him. Which is going to be a tough mission, because the reconfiguration of Iloilo provincial politics tilted the balance in favor of Biron.

The true-blooded Liberals abandoned the sham “matuwid na daan” because of this betrayal of the cause. It’s traditional politics in the shade of KBL forty years ago. Aquino, Roxas and Franklin Drilon shelved the principles of the LP and embraced the practices of Marcos. Along the way, they forged an alliance with Bong Bong Marcos.

This is an uprising of the original Liberals in Iloilo province. They will prove to Aquino, Roxas and Drilon that they are not puppets who can be manipulated to serve selfish interests.
The saddest part of this is that Tupas is being led to the guillotine to be sacrificed, and he is a cooperative lamb for the sake of his son, Rep. Jun Jun Tupas.

Iloilo Capitol power bill soars anew; P1.925 million for March

An early look at the 2013 gubernatorial race | The News Today

An early look at the 2013 gubernatorial race | The News Today.

Ombudsman drops bribery case vs. ex-Gov Tupas

The Ombudsman has dismissed a complaint for bribery and grave misconduct against former Iloilo govenror Niel D. Tupas Sr. last week in connection with the signing of a power supply agreement between Iloilo Electric Cooperative III (Ileco III) and the independent power producer Artech two years ago.

“This complaint was doomed to fail,” the 13-page joint resolution handed down by Acting Ombudsman Orlando Casimiro said.

The Ombudsman said an investigation report made by a team from the National Electrification Administration (NEA) was “pure speculation, surmise and/or conjecture” as then Ileco III president Mateo Baldoza who alleged having received bribe money in the total amount of P150,000 even voted against the PSA.

“The person who could have given light as to what transpired during the said meeting (with Tupas) was reluctant to execute an affidavit, leaving the allegations of the complainant bare and general,” the Ombudsman said.

On the other hand, the Ombudsman threw out an affidavit by another Ileco III director, Rene Arandilla, as “at best, hearsay, with no probative value.”

The Ombudsman noted that Arandilla was not in the meeting where the alleged bribery took place.

It added that “not any one can attest to the reason behind the meeting that was held in respondent Tupas’ house.”

In essence, the Ombudsman said the complaint failed to show what personal benefits Tupas stood to gain in giving the alleged advantage or preference to Artech. “It is unnatural and unimaginable that respondent Tupas would stake his reputation by bribing a person for nothing,” the resolution said.

The Ombudsman also pointed out that Tupas did not have a hand in the affairs of Ileco III.

“That the power supply agreement was disadvantageous to Ileco III’s members should not be attributed to respondent Tupas as the management of (the cooperative) is clearly lodged with its Board of Directors,” the ruling said.

For his part, Tupas expressed jubilation that yet another fabricated case was unmasked as a lie.

He reiterated his denial at having given any money to Baldoza, saying the alleged bribery was a scripted tale hatched by then Presidential Assistant Raul Banias.

Banias, who is now the Provincial Administrator, wanted to scuttle the PSA with Artech because he wanted the cooperative not to be tied up to a different IPP. Banias wanted the Ileco III to remain free to ultimately buy its electricity from a coal-fired power plant that he was pushing to be built in Concepcion, Iloilo.

Second look

Iloilo governor Arthur Defensor Sr. is a pitiable sight each time he faces the media. Much as he would like to put some punch into the way he talks, his voice sounds scrappy and thin, a far cry from the orator that he was in the 80s. It is apparent every word requires a Herculean effort for him, and he is like a toddler learning how to speak when he gropes for words and even connect them to each other.

But Defensor is even more pitiable when he tries to jump into the controversies surrounding the new Iloilo City Hall. A few days ago, Defensor was quoted by friendly media as wanting to seek another investigation into alleged overpricing of the Iloilo Capitol when it was built between 2001 and 2003. His basis? A reckless statement of Conrado Goco, president of the Pacific Orient Construction Management Co., that the construction cost for the Capitol was higher than the new City Hall.

Desperate to pin down his predecessor to perceived anomalies in government transactions, Defensor quickly grabbed the ball and signified his desire for a “second look”. The reader might ask: why second look? That’s because Defensor wasted millions of pesos in a witch hunt for supposed overpricing in the New Capitol construction when he was still a congressman and chairman of the House committee on good government. That investigation yielded nothing.

Now Defensor is hopeful Goco’s statement will score him some points in his efforts to link former Governor Niel Tupas Sr. to wrongdoing. Poor fellow. He had the power and resources to discover such anomalies in the Capitol construction if indeed there were. But after more than two years of probing, he failed in his mission. Will Goco’s statement change that? No.

It doesn’t take a math genius to make a comparison. The Capitol is six floors with about 15,000 sqm. in floor area. The City Hall is 14,000 with seven floors. The Capitol has a wide parking area with cobble-stone surface and lamp posts. The City Hall doesn’t have a single parking slot. The Capitol is surrounded by a steel fence. The City Hall isn’t. The Capitol’s total cost of development was P428 million. The City Hall, as projected, is P720 million.

So how can Defensor hope to prove his theory that the Capitol is overpriced?

Anyway, the stench is now so overpowering in the Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) in the Iloilo provincial government that several members have even resigned. The purchase orders (P.O.) for several big transactions have not been issued six months after the bidding. Is this the result of “failure to clinch the SOP?” The Commission on Audit (COA) should look into this. Because of this, much-need medicines and supplies have not been delivered. Services have suffered.

Suppliers are also complaining that payments are unreasonably delayed. The officials involved in the procurement process are busy facilitating the transactions whose suppliers were quick to come across. It is a shameless display of greed and corruption that many employees at the Iloilo Capitol can only frown upon.

The corruption that Defensor is searching is happening right under his nose! But he is being kept blind by a cordon sanitaire that’s exploiting his weak health condition. Those who have read Peter Jimenea’s columns are familiar with this story. And Peter Jimenea used to be an ardent admirer of Defensor and believer in his “Reporma kag Pagbag-o” campaign promise. Like Peter Jimenea, so many Ilonggos are disgusted at what is happening at the Capitol.