POSTSCRIPT / December 19, 2017 / Tuesday


Opinion Columnist

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Speaker’s wife set to run against him

SPEAKER Pantaleon Alvarez may have to take a detour to the Senate in 2019 instead of seeking reelection as congressman of the first district of Davao del Norte – if only to avoid an embarrassing collision with his estranged wife Emelita Apostol Alvarez.

Davaoeños say that although Mrs. Alvarez defends her husband on political issues, she has been going around their home district apparently in preparation for her own election bid – if against her husband, so be it.

Alvarez’s wife is the chair and president of the Congressional Spouses Foundation Inc., which the Speaker drove away in February from their office in the Batasan complex in Quezon City.

The foundation has moved to Makati City, where Mrs. Alvarez also holds office, continuing to focus on socio-civic activities complementing the work of their spouses in the Congress. She was quoted as saying about their projects: “It’s my passion to do these things.”

The scuttlebutt is that before Alvarez hit pay dirt as Speaker, his wife was the wealthier of the two, having engaged in tourism, advertising and other businesses. She said that he abandoned her after he was catapulted to the top House post in 2016.

Many Davao folk see Alvarez as scared of the prospects of tangling at the polls with his loyal wife of 30 years. This may explain, they note, his seeming to be always in bullying mode, apparently as “compensation reaction.”

Lately, he has also hinted of considering his leading the administration PDP-Laban Senate ticket in 2019. He has suggested half a dozen figures as possible teammates.

In a showdown at the polls, his wife is expected to be helped by, among others, the family of Rep. Antonio “Tonyboy” Floirendo Jr. (2nd Dist., Davao del Norte) whose lease of a tract of land of the Bureau of Corrections the Speaker has questioned.

The feud between Alvarez and Floirendo is reportedly fueled partly by the heat generated by the behind-the-scene quarrel between their girlfriends.

Alvarez admitted in March what had been public knowledge — that he was having an extramarital affair. He tried dismissing it by exclaiming: “My God, who’s without a girlfriend anyway?” He admitted that aside from his four children with his wife, he has “many” offsprings with other women.

His wife said in one interview with News5: “We’ve been together for almost 30 years, and I’ve been there since the very start. That was in 1988. We’ve been through ups and downs. I’m there and the people of Davao del Norte will testify that I was even the one who campaigned for him.”

• Alvarez role in NAIA-3 deal cited

ANOTHER problem, a case of plunder, has reared its head that the Alvarez couple may have to face together despite their marital differences.

The Pinoy Aksyon for Governance and Environment (PAGE) has asked the Ombudsman to reopen the plunder case against Alvarez in connection with the NAIA Terminal 3’s Build-Operate-Transfer contract with the Philippine International Air Terminals Co. Inc. (Piatco)

The advocacy group wrote the Office of the Ombudsman to ask that it revisits the complaint filed against Alvarez in 2001 by the Manila International Airport Authority-NAIA Association of Service Contractors (MASO) as ordered by the Supreme Court in 2005.

The PAGE said that when the contract was awarded, Alvarez was chief operating officer of MIAA as well as the chair of the technical committee of the pre-qualification bids and awards committee of the Department of Transportation and Communications.

The Ombudsman’s office under then Aniano Desierto dismissed in 2002 for supposed lack of evidence the complaint against Alvarez and other MIAA and NAIA officials, an action that MASO had questioned before the SC.

The high court granted in 2005 MASO’s petition for certiorari and directed the Ombudsman to “conduct a preliminary investigation anew of petitioner’s complaint.”

In its letter to the Ombudsman, MASO said: “The Supreme Court’s decision in 2005 should have paved the way for a more thorough preliminary investigation of this case, but it appears that no resolution has yet been made.”

The PAGE said that, as MASO had pointed out, Alvarez must be investigated for violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act (RA 3019) and the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees (RA 6713) for allegedly having financial and pecuniary interest in the NAIA-PIATCO deal.

Entered into in July 1997, the BOT contract between NAIA and PIATCO was for the construction of NAIA Terminal 3. The PAGE said the contract was awarded to PIATCO “despite not having the financial capability to undertake the project.”

The group added that even after Alvarez left the MIAA and became Davao congressman in 1998, he continued to have financial interest in the contract through the Wintrack Builders Inc., a firm in which his wife Emelita was one of the incorporators.

The PAGE said Wintrack was sub-contracted in 2014 to clear underground debris at the NAIA area allegedly without going through the required public bidding.

Since his wife’s shares in Wintrack are considered conjugal property, the PAGE said in its letter, Alvarez has a direct interest in the debris-clearing project supposedly amounting to more than P132.5 million.

The group said: “Rep. Alvarez was prohibited by the Constitution from maintaining such interest. The Constitution provides that members of Congress may not be indirectly interested in any contract with the government during their term of office.”

(First published in the Philippine STAR of December 19, 2017)

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