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.

Tupas slams Defensor administration over “overpricing” yarn

No return, no exchange

Former Iloilo governor Niel Tupas Sr. holds the singular distinction of having been indicted by the beleaguered Ombudsman, Merceditas Gutierrez, twice in a three-year period.

In January 2007, Tupas was slapped the penalty of dismissal and perpetual disqualification from public office for allegedly pocketing P20,000 that the Iloilo provincial government gave a national organization of provincial board members as financial assistance. Tupas stood his ground and refused to step down as he questioned the order before the Court of Appeals. It was nothing more than political persecution, he believed, because he withdrew his allegiance to Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. He was among the governors who sympathized with the Hyatt 10 over the “Hello, Garci” issue and stuck to the Liberal Party position of fighting the corrupt administration of GMA.

Tupas knew the risks, but he stood firm on principle. When the dismissal order came, he refused to kneel and beg before GMA through her lieutenant, then DOJ secretary Raul M. Gonzalez. This steadfastness nearly proved deadly. The GMA administration, using the Ombudsman order of dismissal, sent 300 heavily armed policemen to storm the Iloilo Capitol to forcibly remove Tupas. The timely fax transmission of a temporary restraining order (TRO) from the Court of Appeals in Cebu stopped the policemen in their tracks as they prepared for the final assault to break open the door to the governor’s office. People would have been hurt, or lives even lost, had that happened.

Eventually, the Supreme Court ruled that the Ombudsman order was invalid. Tupas was denied due process, and the penalty of dismissal was an overkill in relation to the alleged offense he committed. This is a classic example of the distorted sense of justice that Gutierrez dispenses: protect the plunderers while sending the small fry to the gas chambers. And this was clearly a fabricated charge that had no basis in truth and in fact.

As the wheels of justice ground to a complete halt in its supposed investigation of mega-anomalies like the ZTE-NBN scandal, P720-million fertilizer fund scam, the multi-million highway robbery of Boboy Syjuco, the Ombudsman’s machinery was revving when it came to cases filed against Tupas.

Just two weeks before the May 10, 2010 elections, the Ombudsman handed down the second decision on the supposed irregularity in the grant of a quarry permit to a businessman in Iloilo. This is now the case that leaped to the centerstage in this epic impeachment drama. In the most stupid of stupidity, the Ombudsman, through Over-all Deputy Ombudsman Orlando Casimiro, ruled that Tupas should suffer the severe penalty of dismissal from office AGAIN in the administrative aspect of the case.

But, as the stupid decision put it, Tupas was absolved of any liability in the administrative case under the Aguinaldo doctrine. Tupas overwhelmingly won over his opponent in the 2007 local elections by a 220,000 vote margin, which extinguishes his administrative liability, if ever, over an alleged offense committed in 2004. Any lawyer would know that the proper thing to do, as the case was filed in 2008, was to dismiss the administrative complaint outright on the basis of the Aguinaldo doctrine. Gutierrez, hiding behind Casimiro, did not. She used the case to harass Tupas.

Anyway, the criminal complaint was rushed to the Sandiganbayan less than 24 hours after the resolution was penned. The indictment served another purpose — negative propaganda against Tupas, who was running for Congressman of the 4th district of Iloilo against incumbent Rep. Ferjenel Biron. It was an express train that was intended to throw Tupas off-balance trying to fend off a warrant of arrest two weeks before the elections. Actually, the plan was to keep it under wraps and spring an ambush on Tupas by serving him a warrant of arrest a few days before the elections. It was by accident that I stumbled upon the story through the ABS-CBN website at 5 o’ clock a.m. The element of surprise was deleted.

Tupas filed a motion for reconsideration on the decision shortly afterwards. He lost to Biron in the face of super-massive vote buying, but his son, Niel Jr., trounced his first cousin, Rolex T. Suplico, the 5th district of Iloilo. As fate would have it, Rep. Niel Jr. was chosen to become chairman of the House justice committee, and it was on his laps that two impeachment complaints were lodged against Merceditas Gutierrez. The younger Tupas didn’t ask to be made justice committee chair; he didn’t orchestrate the filing of impeachment complaints against Gutierrez.

Sometime in the 2nd week of September 2010, Tupas was surprised to find Casimiro waiting at his office. The House justice committee had commence its work on the complaints, and had in fact poisted to vote on the sufficiency in form and substance. Casimiro engaged Tupas, in the presence of his legal assistant, Atty. Joenar Pueblo, in light talk about his father’s case. “It was really weak right from the start,” Tupas quoted Casimiro as saying. But the deputy ombudsman said he was ordered to indict the older Tupas just the same. It doesn’t take too much brain power to figure out who could order him to do that.

“Then, Casimiro told me the case can be dismissed by way of approving the pending motion for reconsideration,” Rep. Tupas said. Casimiro’s voice dropped in a conspirational whisper: “What can you offer the Ombudsman in exchange?”

It was a horse-trade that Casimiro had proposed — unethical, illegal and unprofessional. The Ombudsman will drop the case against the father provided the son treats Gutierrez with leniency and allow her to squirm her way out of the impeachment. A very tempting offer, indeed, said Tupas.

But Tupas said “no”. His father will face the case squarely. He will not hide. He will not drop to his knees and pray for reversal of the indictment. “I cannot abandon my principles in exchange for my father’s case,” the younger Tupas said. The former governor agreed. The same issue had been decided by a Regional Trial Court in Iloilo in 2005 after a full-blown trial. The quarry permit was validly issued, the individual who obtained it was qualified, and then Gov. Tupas did nothing wrong. That decision was, and is, the best evidence in favor of Gov. Tupas.

Rep. Tupas revealed this secret offer immediately after the Ombudsman, again through Casimiro, rejected the motion for reconsideration. “I didn’t disclose it earlier because I didn’t want to sidetrack the focus,” Rep. Tupas said. “But I continued to fulfill my mandate despite this sword of Damocles hanging over the head of my father,” he added. Now that the Ombudsman had revived the case in apparent retaliation to the unshakable principle shown by the younger Tupas, he felt this attempt to bargain with him had to be exposed.

Casimiro, as expected, denied having tried to lobby for his boss. But he can’t hide the fact that he visited the office of Rep. Tupas in September. I am told there was even a second visit in which Gov. Tupas was present; Casimiro came to reiterate the offer. The logbooks would show that he went to see the son at his office. Was it just a social call? Did Casimiro go there to have coffee and just engage in friendly banter? He was the one who signed the original decision, as often happens when Gutierrez wants to wash her hands from a case. Certainly, Tupas wouldn’t feel too comfortable chatting with a man who tried to fire his father a second time.

The firm position taken by Tupas has frustrated Gutierrez. Her usual tactics didn’t work this time. She tried to deal with a person who adopted a “no return, no exchange” policy. No barter, no withdrawal of cases. Now she wants to use the issue to cast doubt over the credibility of Tupas. However, her lies will not bring her anywhere. The public isn’t likely to be deceived. A coincidence? The resolution was dated August 10, 2010. The lapse of five months before it was signed only reinforces the story of Rep. Tupas. It was kept hanging to be used as a bargaining tool.

Merceditas Gutierrez has done the country grave wrongs. There is growing anger among Filipinos as details about her anomalies are revealed. It is the position of the Tupas family that they can take the blows for the sake of making sure that the ends of justice and equity are served. Gov. Tupas survived an assault by 300 heavily armed policemen. He is not about to run away from this case, much unlike Merceditas Gutierrez who is getting more desperate in trying to stop the impeachment process.

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.

A not-so-subtle hint to get out

Former (let me repeat that: FORMER) PCA administrator Oscar Garin was given a Halloween present when Malacanang announced his appointment as a board member of the Philippine Coconut Authority, an agency he headed for about five years and which he used as platform to launch a new party-list to electoral victory in the House of Representatives.

Garin was technically fired from his position by being given a lower position in the agency, and it should register in his mind that he is now being given a graceful exit from government. President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III is according him courtesy and respect as a former colleague in the House of Representatives by not throwing him out just like that. The President politely gave Garin a cushion to land on. But the message is unmistakable: YOU ARE NOT WELCOME ABOARD THE SHIP.

This happened even after the Garin family maneuvered hard to keep the patriach in his position as PCA administrator. His daughter-in-law, Rep. Janette Garin, was all over the court trying to get “ninongs” and “ninangs” to curry this big favor from the Aquino administration. It came to a point when they already boasted that Garin was going to stay as PCA administrator and ultimately get his entire family into the Liberal Party.

As it happened, the Liberal Party in Iloilo asserted its right of refusal against the Garins. Its leadership drew up a manifesto strongly opposing any move to admit the Garins into the party. Just over a month ago, no less than President Noynoy assured the Ilonggo LPs nothing of the sort will happen without their consent and approval. This demotion is a signal from the President that the voice of the Iloilo LP was heard loud and clear.

What Garin does in the next few days will determine whether he belongs to the category of the “kapit-tuko” lambasted by President Noynoy in his first 100 days speech, or take the strong hint for him to get out.