BY PET MELLIZA
The grapevine is rife with stories about the forthcoming Treñas – Mabilog clash
for mayorship of Iloilo City come 2013.
Treñas is first named “Jerry” and now a member of the Lower House. He is the
immediate predecessor of incumbent Mayor Jedd Patrick Mabilog.
Political pundits say that the former is uncomfortable at the legislature having
tasted the “sweetness” of ruling a kingdom, especially now that the city boasts
of an annual budget hitting past the P1-billion mark.
Mabilog has no reason to feel threatened. All he needs is resurrect the ghost of
the so-called Pavia Housing Scam and other hanky-pankies that happened during
the nine-year stint of his potential rival.
The good side, if “good” were the proper adjective, to it is that Treñas is
lucky his successor has no penchant to dig for bones. Mabilog decided to
put a “closure” to it so the city can move on. He resolved to sell the parcel of
land in nearby Pavia town where the housing scam is located following the
business pragmatism that if you can’t earn profits, reduce the loss at least. In
this case, Mabilog stopped the bleeding by selling the property that caused it.
Today, a private group now owns the controversial property. However, questions
continue begging for answers how taxpayers can vindicate themselves for the loss
of their money worth P130 million, all for nothing and at the gain of the few,
crooks all. People bleed by P17,000 daily just paying the interest of the loan
to the Veterans Bank of the Philippines.
Not one of the target 415 housing units was completed. The contractor, Ace
Builders, Inc., abandoned them in 2004 in a sad state of disrepair. All the
structures were not only unfinished, they are substandard as well as shown by
then Kgd. Antonio Pesina who demolished a portion of a concrete wall with a
single blow from a hammer.
Somebody has to answer for the broad daylight robbery. The administration of
Mayor Jerry Treñas implemented the works at the start of his first term in 2001.
The next year, subcontractors made noises that their principal had not paid them
yet as agreed upon. The sangguniang panglungsod created a fact-finding body
chaired by then Kgd. Raul Gonzalez, Jr. In 2004, before the May elections, the
SP adopted the findings of the probe body which recommended rescission of the
contract and the filing of charges against the persons responsible for the scam,
principal among them then mayor, now Rep. Jerry Treñas and Ace Builders.
Treñas finished his third and final term in 2010 but he never implemented the
recommendations of the SP. He even continued paying the contractor up to P90
million though the latter already abandoned the project. ACE Builders reneged on
its contract but instead of exacting compliance and penalizing it by seizing its
surety bonds, Treñas continued pampering the non-performing contractor.
Such broad daylight robbery could not have happened had Virginia
Palanca-Santiago, then acting deputy ombudsman for the Visayas and concurrently,
the head of its Western Visayas office based in this city – such shenanigan
could not have happened had she acted swiftly on the complaints filed before the
May 2004 elections by Kgd. Antonio Pesina, Kgd. Raul Gaonzalez, Jr. And private
citizen lawyer Romeo Gerochi.
Virginia Palanca-Santiago until today is yet to rouse from her deep slumber and
explain to the people of Iloilo what happened to the separate complaints lodged
with her office against people involved in the so called Pavia Housing Scam.
Under her watch, her office earned the notoriety of treating big-time crooks
with kid gloves on one hand, and on the other, too drastic and eager in small
time cases, even to the point of rigging them just to convict, as in the case of
People’s Graftwatch of Iloilo vs. Mayor Jaime Esmeralda, et al.
This space, in the series “Virginia Palanca-Santiago’s Exercise of Raw Power”
which is now in its 23rd episode, calls her in no-uncertain “a moral pygmy whose
sense of right and wrong is as revolting as her looks” and that she must be
investigated for corruption”. She sleeps on grand scale robberies like the Pavia
Housing Scam and the P6.7 million cell phone scam involving former Rep. August
Syjuco, Jr. (Lakas, 2nd district, Iloilo).
Back to the Pavia Housing Scam. Upon the assumption of Mayor Jedd Patrick
Mabilog to the city’s top post last May, among his first moves was to implement
the recommendation by the past SP to rescind the contract. He dispatched city
attorney Junio Jacela to the office of Ace Builders in Manila to serve the
notice of rescission, preparatory to filing the case in court.
Jacela returned empty handed. He reported to the mayor that Ace Builders “can no
longer be located”.
Somebody has to answer for the scam. Mayor Mabilog should not rest until the
case is solved, that is, the culprits who are already identified, are charged
and put behind bars.