BY PET MELLIZA
Virginia Palanca-Santiago’s exercise of raw power (19)
Lawyer Roming Gerochi has one word for the Office of the Ombudsman – “Monalisa”, an old ditty popularized by Matt Monroe and Frank Sinatra. He said that in one episode of “Kape kag Isyu”, a cable TV talks show aired live on Sky Cable every Saturday at 9 – 10 am.
Many dreams have been brought to the doorstep of Monalisa but “they just lie there and they die there.”
Virginia Palanca-Santiago, assistant ombudsman for the Visayas and chief of its W. Visayas regional office based in Iloilo City, is now in town preaching public accountability on elective local officials.
Many cases have also been brought to the doorsteps of Virginia Palanca-Santiago and they, too, just lie and die there.
The moral pygmy whose sense of right and wrong is as revolting as her looks being tasked to promote public accountability? That sounds like Pangulong Erap pontificating on marital fidelity.
Gerochi threatened to sling mandamus suits on Palanca-Santiago to compel her to complete her investigation on corruption complaints against public officials.
Gerochi in 2003 sued then Iloilo City mayor Jerry Treñas and company for the Pavia Housing Scam where the local government splurged millions to build 415 units of houses for its employees at Pavia, Iloilo. Not a single structure was completed. The ones built were unfinished and substandard which the contractor Ace Builders abandoned. The housing site has rows of cannibalized and ruined structures not even fit to house animals because their roofs are gone.
The city government in 2001 borrowed P135 million to finance the project. The next year, the works stopped after a subcontractor blew the whistle against the main contractor for shortchanging him. That opened the box of worms.
The city council created an investigation group chaired by then good government committee head SP Raul Gonzalez, Jr. The probe body recommended one, rescission of the contract and two, filing criminal and administrative charges against those responsible particularly Treñas and the contractor.
Indeed, Treñas and cabal have lots to explain. He finished his three straight terms (and now he’s a member of the Lower House), he wasted nine years without implementing the recommendations. In fact, he continued to pay the contractor up to P90 million; he was supposed to protect the interest of his constituents by throwing the monkey wrench on Ace Builders aside from confiscating its surety bond and performance bond. He should have slapped criminal charges with demands for reimbursement and damages, but he let the contractor laugh its way to the bank.
He failed to protect his people; he consigned them to the P135-million debt trap which bleeds them P17,000 daily in interest alone.
Criminal charges on the housing scandal were lodged with the regional office headed by Virginia Palanca-Santiago in 2003, by different people, among them, Roming Gerochi, SP Antonio Pesina and the investigation body itself which forwarded its findings to Palanca Santiago.
Until now, Palanca-Santiago sits on them.
But my co-panelist in the Kape kag Isyu, lawyer Edel Julio Romero, has a different perception of our heroine. She is the fastest gun in town, he muses, referring to the case last year filed by a wealthy resident against the barangay officials of Kasing-Kasing, Molo, Iloilo City. The matrona demanded of the barangay to remove its office fronting her house.
The Barangay Hall stood outside her property; on the roadside which is government property but the matrona disliked it for obstructing her views.
That is a pure ejectment case which is the province of the RTC (which would surely trash it outright for being brazenly whimsical) but our heroine gave it due course and in record time, resolved it in favor of the wealthy matron. The people lost their barangay hall. “Whew! Waay abti isa ka bulan, na-resolbar na ni Santiago!” boomed lawyer Romero. (“Whew! Santiago resolved it in less than a month!”)
That shows that our heroine, Virginia Palanca-Santiago again diluted the mandate of her office being “protector of the people”. She made it protector of the rich no matter how infamous.
This is the 19th in the series already and our heroine doesn’t bother even to squeak. Yours truly categorically exposed her for corruption, for rigging decisions as in the case of Iloilo Graftwatch vs Esmeralda et al.
She has made herself scarce in Iloilo instead and has opted for early retirement. I have written in past columns and do it again this time: she should not be allowed to slip silently into early retirement but must be investigated for corruption.
No wonder, big time thievery flourishes in this part of the country because the job has been entrusted to Palanca-Santiago, like commissioning Dracula to secure the blood bank. (to be continued)