De Lima’s Burnham tryst with Kerwin

>> Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Alfred P. Dizon

BAGUIO CITY -- Self-confessed drug lord Kerwin Espinosa’s statement of meeting Sen. Leila M. de Lima and her former driver-bodyguard  Ronnie Dayan at Burnham Park here  to give protection money to her has given this summer capital another boost in its tourism campaign.
          The bicycle area and its nearby environs where they allegedly met are actually a haven of drug pushers, users and prostitutes at night. Every now and then, those involved in illegal drugs are arrested within vicinity of the park in police buy-bust operations.
Reports have it that bugaws or mama sans are on the prowl in the area as soon as day turns to dusk looking for young men and women who sell their bodies for a fee to their clients who are mostly gays.
Burnham is also the place where a rich gay businessman was reportedly arrested having a shabu session with a teenage boy. The businessman was killed last year in his home under mysterious circumstances and the crime is still unsolved.   
City officials have said CCTV cameras had been installed in the area which is actually a few steps near the Panagbenga office and city library. Could the alleged meeting between de Lima, Espinosa and Dayan been caught on CCTV?    
Anyway, de Lima’s office emailed us the senator’s manifestation on Espinosa’s testimony during the Senate probe on the killing of Albuera Mayor Rolando Espinosa on Tuesday:
“I actually have no intention to confront this resource person (Espinosa). I have no intention to ask questions from him, even if I want to because I think it would be a cross-examiner’s dream. But I feel that it would be pointless, useless, futile for me to do so given a very nice script, at least insofar as the portions of his testimony about me are concerned.
         “But let me say to my colleagues here, and everyone in this hall, and to everyone listening and watching these proceedings. I say this to you: I categorically, firmly, and absolutely deny having known Mr. Kerwin Espinosa. I do not remember any instance or occasion of having met him. I categorically, firmly, and absolutely deny having received any money, any cash from Mr. Kerwin Espinosa, either directly or indirectly through anyone else, in any occasion at any time, whether that money is supposedly for either protection or fund-raising for campaign expenses.
       :Alam po yan ni Mr. Kerwin Espinosa na sa punto nung kanyang testimonya ngayon about me having received money, having talked to him, having met him anywhere, whether it’s Burnham, anywhere, ay total fabrication. To me, that portion of his testimony is under gunpoint, under duress. So it’s pointless for me to question him on those points.
          “And I also feel that it would not be appropriate for me to do so because there would be questions on my objectivity, on my interest because I’m being implicated expressedly as having received that money. Kaya hindi po ako magtatanong sa kanya. I would want to give my colleagues free hand, full liberty in questioning Mr. Kerwin Espinosa about any part of his testimony.
       “Final message ko po kay Mr. Kerwin Esponsa. I cannot talk to him directly, but may I just say this: May God forgive you for all your sins, and may God forgive you for all your lies about me. And I forgive you. Maraming salamat po.”
Another controversial park in this so called City of Pines is Malcolm Square or People’s Park after some trees were cut and pruned by city government personnel which earned the ire of many citizens.
Two mature Agoho trees were trimmed to minimum branches for preservation and to allow further rejuvenation, personnel from the City Environment and Parks Management Office said.
In a letter to Mayor Mauricio Domogan and CEPMO head Cordelia Lacsamana, public services officers Jones Gas-ib and Arturo Killip said they were earlier briefed on which branches to cut or shaped to accommodate decorations for the opening of Malcolm Square last Nov. 20 and inauguration on Dec. 1. (Malcolm Square is being “rehabilitated” by the winning contractor and the area been closed to the public for many months.)   
Upon inspection just after Typhoon Lawin, the two said they found the trees’ root base loose which could not support their heavy top. Should another strong typhoon hit the city, the trees could collapse, endangering life and property, they thought, so they decided to cut.
A report by Julie Fianza of the city information office said findings and urgency of the matter and considering Gas-ib and Killip’s superior could not authorize its cutting with a proper permit since she was on a 3-day seminar, reportedly pushed the two to order cutting of heavy branches.  
Another mature tree in the area was also cut purportedly due to root disease.             
The sight of two bald trees, despite the promise that no tree shall be cut in the rehabilitation of Malcolm Square earned the ire of Baguio citizens and environmentalists, who questioned the action in social media.
            The mayor who earlier said he was “shocked” to see the cut trees at Malcolm Square said he does not blame those who reacted to the loss of tree branches.
Four 14-foot Norfolk pines shall be planted within the park to help in carbon sequestration along lower Session road, he said. The CEPMO was given instructions to ensure survival of said trees, it was known.  
The clarifications, as well as apologies of Killip and Gas-ib shall be submitted to the Human Resource and Management Office for evaluation if there are grounds for disciplinary action, the mayor said.    

The tree-trimming activities were part of the renovation and beautification of Malcolm Square, to be opened in time for Baguio Christmas activities.


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