Mayors in graft, federalism and Cordillera autonomy

>> Thursday, December 8, 2016

Alfred P. Dizon

Somehow, government officials accused of graft are now being convicted. There are still a lot of so-called corrupt, wily “big fish” who are still enjoying their high positions with all the perks but with the Freedom of Information law, citizens may now be emboldened to report anomalies.  
In latest case, the Sandiganbayan sentenced to six to eight years in prison a former municipal mayor of Isabela for the anomalous award of a P2.5-million contract for a road concreting project in 2008.
Convicted of graft were former Luna town mayor Manuel Tio and ex-municipal accountant Lolita Cadiz. They were also ordered perpetually disqualified from holding public office.
Tio also figured in a shabu laboratory raid last October.
In a 30-page resolution promulgated on Nov. 30, the Sandiganbayan Third Division said “the prosecution was able to prove beyond reasonable doubt” that the respondents gave unwarranted benefit and advantage to sand supplier Double A Gravel and Sand, whose owner was a relative of Tio’s, when it awarded the contract without public bidding.
In the resolution penned by Associate Justice Sarah Jane Fernandez, the court said Tio and Cadiz also acted with gross inexcusable negligence in causing the payment of P2.5 million to Double A despite incomplete supporting documents.
The anti-graft court did not give weight to Tio’s defense that Double A was the sole supplier willing to provide the materials on credit since there was no public bidding conducted. The court further pointed out that Tio’s camp failed to present a witness to prove his claim.
Tio figured in the raid of the “mega” shabu laboratory in Cauayan City last October where two alleged Chinese drug lords were killed in a shootout with authorities.
Tio is the owner of the warehouse used by the two slain suspects.   
In another case in San Antonio, Nueva Ecija, this  town’s former mayor has been charged along with 11 others in connection with the allegedly anomalous government projects amounting to P102 million.
Former mayor Antonino Lustre and the respondents were charged with plunder, three counts of malversation and seven counts of violation of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
Aside from Lustre, named respondents were bids and awards committee chairman Renato Bustamante; BAC members Julito Galang, Daisy Pili, Mercy Reyes and Constancia Salonga; engineers Eloy Castillo, Michael Galang and Roberto Odulio; civilians Julito Semacio and his wife Maritta Semacio, and Pedro Perez of private firm Papisss Inc.
The charges stemmed from a complaint filed with the Office of the Deputy Ombudsman for Luzon by Mayor Arvin Salonga, Lustre’s political rival. (See page 12 for more details.)
Baguio Mayor Mauricio G. Domogan wants the public to carefully study the proposal of the administration to shift from presidential to federal saying Filipinos need more time to mature before federal states are set nationwide.
According to the mayor, there will be a long period of transition from the present form to federal as government needs to address several pressing issues.
He said one issue federalism advocates must address is treatment of small provinces within a federal state. “The federal constitution must include an equalizing provision to prevent small local governments from being discriminated in their share of the revenues and taxes of the state,” he told media.
Because of expected abolition of government agencies in the national set up, Domogan said a mechanism must be instituted to address mass layoff of State workers, payment of their benefits or their re-employment.
He said problems that must also be addressed include scope of federal states, country’s debt and how payment will be equitably shared and ability of states to generate resources. 
He raised concern on how federalism will divide the country into federal states as the Cordillera and Muslim Mindanao want to be treated as independent states because of their unique culture and traditions among other justifiable reasons, particularly their distinct terrain, which has deprived the regions of their adequate share from the resources of the government.
Domogan said peculiar terrain of the Cordillera deprives it to a greater share from the Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) because the applicable formula depends on land area and population, thus, the bigger land area and population, the local government will get a bigger share of the country’s limited resources.
Aside from having an equalizing provision on the distribution of resources, Domogan proposed a unitary form of government with a two-party system so that politicians will focus on party platforms instead of personalities which is happening in the multi-party system.
In case the bicameral form will be adopted, Domogan proposed senators should be elected by region so that their allocations will be exclusively used in the regions where they come from to guarantee equitable chances of development instead of other regions being left out in the quest for development funds.
This, as the Regional Development Council is pushing creation of a Cordillera autonomous Region as mandated by the Constitution. Moves of the RDC to embark on intensive and extensive information dissemination and consultation the matter in the region is most welcome considering the government’s thrust for  federalism.


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