POSTSCRIPT / December 23, 2012 / Sunday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Gwen Garcia can’t use ‘Why pick on me?’ line

PICKING ON LPs?: We learned early on in California that when caught speeding on Interstate-280 connecting San Francisco and San Jose we should not play oppressed and ask the highway patrol officer, “Why pick on me?” and point to the other speedsters zipping by.

Continuing to write the violation ticket, the officer simply says, “Don’t worry, sir, we’ll get them.” The speed limit on I-280 is 65 miles per hour, but many locals and those who had seen enough of the “world most beautiful freeway” race through it at 70 mph or faster.

The same admonition could be given Cebu Gov. Gwen Garcia, boss-ma’am of a province teeming with more than a million voters, who has just been suspended for six months by Malacañang for several alleged infractions.

She insists that the charges are politically motivated, and being used by the Palace to replace her with a Liberal Party stalwart in preparation for the 2013 midterm elections.

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GARCIA MUST ANSWER: It is futile for Garcia to ask traffic officer Executive Secretary Jojo Ochoa “Why pick on me?” after he suspended her last Dec. 17.

While seeking side relief, like maybe a court restraining order, her best basic response is to refute the charges one by one in the proper forum (if only Malacañang would also do its proper part and not subject her to trial in media).

Even assuming that Malacañang is out to get her and other opposition leaders of vote-rich provinces — such as governors Amado Espino (Pangasinan), Lilia Pineda (Pampanga), Juanito Victor Remulla (Cavite) and David Suarez (Quezon) – Garcia still has to answer the charges.

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ADMIN CASE: Garcia’s suspension was a consequence of an administrative case (O.P. Case No. 10-K-504) filed in 2010 by then Vice Gov. Gregorio Sanchez Jr. for alleged encroachment of legislative powers, grave misconduct and abuse of authority.

She allegedly (1) slashed the budget of the Office of the Vice Governor, (2) transferred the funds from it to the Office of the Governor, and (3) hired consultants and (4) issued a P10-million check both without authority from the Sangguniang Panlalawigan.

When complainant Sanchez died in April 2011, he was replaced as vice governor by SP member Agnes Magpale, said to be an ally of Garcia.

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MALICE, BAD FAITH: Executive Secretary Jojo Ochoa found Garcia guilty of usurping legislative power when she unilaterally slashed the annual budget of the Vice Governor’s Office from P47.57 million in 2010 to P18.15 million the following year.

Ochoa also said that the governor had removed the Legislative Assistance Fund and transferred the Legislative Research Codification Project to her office, and then hired consultants without prior approval from the SP.

He concluded that Garcia’s move reeked of “malice and bad faith” because she returned the deleted budgetary allocations to the office of the Vice Governor when Sanchez died and was succeeded by Magpale who “appeared to be an ally of respondent (Garcia) and the SP.”

The budget reductions and their subsequent restoration to the vice governor’s office when Sanchez died and was replaced by Garcia’s ally (Magpale) “lends itself to the belief that a scheme to restrict the functioning of the Office of the Vice Governor under complainant’s term, was employed,” Ochoa said.

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HATCHET MAN?: Is Malacañang picking on opposition leaders with DILG Secretary Mar Roxas acting as hatchet man?

“Obviously, all these moves are political in nature,” said San Juan Rep. JV Ejercito, who is running for senator on the United Nationalist Alliance ticket of his father, former President Erap Estrada, and Vice President Jojo Binay. “I have yet to see an LP member charged.”

Before Garcia’s suspension, an investigation had also been started with attendant publicity of Pangasinan Gov. Amado Espino of the Nationalist People’s Coalition for his alleged involvement in jueteng operations in his province.

Espino was accused of plunder by his erstwhile ally, Bugallon Mayor Rodrigo Orduna, by amassing close to P900 million since 2007 for overseeing the illegal numbers game.

It is odd that no Liberal governor or mayor has been similarly raked through the jueteng coals, even in Tarlac, the home province of President Noynoy Aquino where the illegal game has been flourishing as well.

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LPs ON CARPET: But Eastern Samar Rep Ben Evardone pointed out that at least one LP governor and an LP mayor are similarly in hot water for their respective involvement in media-harassment and pyramiding cases.

He cited Kalinga Gov. Jocel Baac, suspended last July while being investigated for attacking broadcast journalist Jerome Tabanganay in the announcer’s booth of DZRK Radyo ng Bayan.

Baac had barged into the booth while Tabanganay was hosting his show Agenda ng Bayan and threatened to kill the latter. Tabanganay had been accusing the governor on air of being a coddler of jueteng operators and illegal loggers.

Evardone also mentioned Pagadian City Mayor Samuel Co and his wife, who were charged last month with syndicated estafa for their alleged involvement in the Ponzi-type operations of Aman Futures Group Philippines, which had conned some 15,000 investors in the Visayas and Mindanao of a combined P12 billion.

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CLARK FOR ‘PABLO’: The famous Pampanga giant lanterns and live bands will be featured in the Clark Freeport Zone “human chain” that will be held Dec. 27 to support victims of typhoon “Pablo” and its aftermath. The festivities will start 5 p.m. at the parade grounds fronting the Clark Development Corp. executive offices.

CDC has new officers: president/CEO Arthur Tugade and chair Eliseo Santiago. Both their positions were vacated by Gen. Eduardo Oban upon his appointment the other week as undersecretary at the Department of Transportation and Communication.

(First published in the Philippine STAR of December 23, 2012)

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