‘No mas’?

Below is my press statement in reaction to the initiative of Senator Koko Pimental to cut short the Blue Ribbon Committee investigation into the anomalous Iloilo Convention Center project:

Is the Liberal Party declaring “no mas” in the face of emerging evidence validating my assertions that the bidding and implementation of the Iloilo Convention Center was marred by irregularities such as rigging of the bid and overpricing?

That is the signal being sent by the move of Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III to bring the Blue Ribbon Committee investigation into these issues to an abrupt halt.
Far from the claim of Senate President Franklin Drilon and his party mates that I failed to present evidence to back up my allegations, I have proof and this was strengthened by the testimonies of DPWH Secretary Rogelio Singson and DOT Secretary Ramon Jimenez in last Thursday’s hearing.
On the issue of overpricing:
1) In computing the unit cost for the building, Singson included the roof deck area to arrive at a figure of 11,900 sqm. Even assuming that this is true, the unit cost is still P63,000 per sqm, which is more than double the industry standard of P30,000 per sqm. Singson insists the industry standard cannot be applied to government infrastructure. But he could not explain why it is more than double the P26,000 per sqm. of the SMX n the Mall of Asia.
2. The real floor area of the ICC is 8,932 sqm. based on the Invitation to Bid published by the DPWH in the Manila Standard Today on July 5, 2013 in describing the scope of works for the completion of the structure. If this figure is used, and this is the figure upon which the unit cost should be based, the construction cost would amount to P84,000 per sqm. That is glaring evidence of overpricing.
3. In his testimony, Singson said DPWH is trying to bring down the unit cost to P55,000 per sqm.  That is an admission of overpricing. If that is going to happen, DPWH will be able to slash P95.2 million from the total contract price based on 11,900 sqm as base floor area. That is equivalent to 13% of the present estimated project cost to P747 million.
4. If the unit cost goes down to P55,000 per sqm. and we use the actual floor area of 8,932 sqm., then the overprice is still a whooping P72 million.
5. Singson testified that the architectural design made provisions for an additional two floors, which is why the foundation had to be strengthened. This is a case of over design of the specifications to justify the supposed need for more pile driving. The allocation for pile driving and foundation work in the presentation of Singson is P107,000,000. But the design of the building makes additional floors impractical and unnecessary. The symmetry and balance of the “iconic architecture” would be upset, and it would lose the unique design to make it attractive.
6. By Singson’s own testimony, the overpricing of the project becomes apparent, and the Liberal Party doesn’t want to expose the Senate President to more embarrassment as what happened in last Thursday’s hearing.
On the issue of malversation and plunder:
1. Based on the above presentation, the overprice ranges from at least P74 milliion to P95 million, or even more, depending on further examination of the building plans by technical personnel of the Commission on Audit. The malversation of amounts more than P50 million is plunder. As this is a conspiracy, the act of one is the act of all.
2. No less than Senate President Drilon admitted how deep his involvement in the project is. In fact, during the hearing last Thursday, he was heard “cuing” Singson and Jimenez with their answers. He chided Senator Nancy Binay at one point, forgetting that he had inhibited himself from the hearing, and was there as a resource person. Senator Serge Osmena also took a swipe at him for trying to interject for Jimenez who found difficulty answering the questions the Cebuano senator threw at him. His own actions betrayed the truth that his involvement was more than looking for funds. It took on the nature of ownership, and he could not extricate himself from the issue that he meddled in every aspect of the implementaton.
It would be tragic if the Liberal Party bury the truth by simply shutting the door to a deeper inquiry. It will have abdicated its mandate for oversight, accountability and good governance. By itself, terminating the inquiry at a time when more questions emerged than were answered would be tantamount to betrayal of public trust.

A squabble in the making?

I had coffee with regular habitues of the Glory Kapehan in the infamous Iloilo City Central Market this morning, and the topic was the political landscape in 2016.
While the political bonds between city mayor Jed Patrick E. Mabilog and congressman Jerry Trenas are intact, there seems to be fissures building up underneath due to the anticipated showdown for the Presidency.
A barangay captain whispered to me that there could be a confrontation between Mabilog and Trenas because of their candidates for President. Trenas is openly for Mar Roxas of the Liberal Party while Mabilog is traipsing with front runner Vice President Jojo Binay.
The root of this likely squabble is the fact that Mabilog’s ever-loyal Voltes V in the city council are now displaying their support for Binay. This is not going to sit well with Trenas, who doesn’t Roxas to doubt his own loyalty.
The unfolding of this drama will be greatly interesting.

Evil genius

I agree with former Senator Joker Arroyo.
The crafting of the DAP and its misuse to strengthen the hold of the Liberal Party on Philippine politics was evil.
It stands in contradiction with the principles of the Liberal Party.
Its so-called “noble intentions” could be compared to the desire of Adolf Hitler to eradicate the Jewish race and “cleanse” the German nation.
DAP stands for tyranny, which is evil.
DAP sought to undermine the very foundations of our democracy.
It endeavored to use corruption to get rid of the perceived enemies of society, only to replace them with a worse kind.

If Mar Roxas wants to be President, he must rebuild his bailiwick

If Mar Roxas wants to be President, he must rebuild his bailiwick

Supporters of DILG Secretary Mar Roxas are excited, and nervous, about his prospects in the 2016 presidential derby. But as the most recent Pulse Asia poll survey showed, he trails front-runner VP Jojo Binay by a mile, and the race is going into the final bend. He is running out of time. If he is serious, and questions are being raised about it in the first place, he must take a second look at his own bailiwick: the Western Visayas region.

Clear and present danger: city mayor and drug lords are bosom friends in Iloilo City

The first time the name of Jesus “Jing Jing” Espinosa came out in the news happened sometime in 1993 when he was accused of murdering a deaf-mute who had done nothing to provoke him.

Jing Jing, as he is popularly known, happened to pass by when the victim, Augusto Elon, was urinating in front of their house. He shot him three times at close range. The victim died instantly.

Jed is a frequent visitor to Jing Jing Espinosa’s residence in Barangay Monica. He is a godfather to one of Jing Jing’s children.

The Regional Trial Court of Iloilo found Jing Jing guilty of murder and sentenced him to 10-17 years in prison. After serving his prison term, Jing Jing returned to the “waterfront” area in Barangay Monica.

Sources in the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) said Jing Jing became friends with a known drug lord while he was in jail. They became business associates upon getting out of jail, the sources said.

“Jing Jing is now a big-time drug lord in Iloilo City,” said a relative in Barangay Monica. His house there is almost like a tower overlooking the waterfront area. It is five stories tall.

In June 2010, Jing Jing’s name again hit the news when a relative, Pascual “Toto E” Espinosa and his brother, Leo, were ambushed on Zamora St., City Proper. “Toto”, a former executive assistant at City Hall during the Malabor administration, suffered wounds but survived. Jing Jing was accused as the perpetrator.

When the case was filed before the City Prosecutor’s Office, Jing Jing asked that the entire prosecutor’s office be inhibited from handling the investigation. The case is still pending before the Department of Justice.

That was the second time “Toto E” was ambushed, allegedly by Jing Jing. In an earlier incident, “Toto E” suffered scratches after his relative allegedly fired at him near a church in the waterfront area.

According to sources, Jing Jing was also convicted of the crime of frustrated murder. The conviction is pending appeal before the Court of Appeals.

Jing Jing is described as a very violent individual. His rise as a drug lord has enabled him to control the entire waterfront area and keeps the police force assigned to the area under his beck and call, according to another relative interviewed for this article.

Because of this, the police is virtually helpless in stopping crimes taking place in the area. One resident said there is hardly a night when there are no gunfire bursts to shatter the quiet evening; the police could do nothing about it, she said.

Jing Jing Espinosa has his own private army in Barangay Monica, armed with heavy firepower. When Mabilog and Trenas visit him, even barangay tanods are issued machine pistols to beef up security.

“Jing Jing is untouchable in the waterfront, and this is largely because of his close friendship with Iloilo City Mayor Jed Patrick E. Mabilog,” an informant in the area said.

Mabilog, the informant said, is a frequent visitor to Jing Jing’s house. This information is validated by the numerous photographs that surfaced over social media networks these last few days showing Mabilog and Jing Jing together.

“Mabilog is the godfather of one of Jing Jing’s children,” said another source. “Mag-kumpare sila,” he added.

When Mabilog was asked about his association with Jing Jing, he told local media there was nothing wrong with it. He even dismissed the issue as “non-sense”.

But the spread of the photographs showing Mabilog and Jing Jing on intimate terms shows many Ilonggos are bothered by this friendship.

Former Iloilo City congressman Raul Gonzalez Jr. sent a text message that in Davao City, drug pushers flee upon seeing the approach of former City Mayor, and now Vice Mayor, Rodrigo Duterte.

“In Iloilo City, our city mayor and congressman (Jerry P. Trenas) even wine and dine with drug lords,” Gonzalez said.

One of the photographs that circulated on the Internet also shows Trenas, along with Vice Mayor Joe Espinosa III and Liga ng mga Barangay federation president Bobby Divinagracia, enjoying a meal with Jing Jing.

There are worries that the intimacy between Mabilog and Jing Jing is the reason the illegal drugs problem has flourished in Iloilo City.

“Mabilog has kept a tight rein on law enforcement authorities and prevented them from pursuing drug pushers in the city,” one police officer, who asked not to be identified, said.

‘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.

 

Unease at ‘united front’

Unease at ‘united front’.

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