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Virginia Palanca-Santiago’s exercise of raw power (35)

By Pet Melliza/ The Beekeeper

Deputy Ombudsman for the Visayas Pelagio Apostol must have already charged subordinate Virginia Palanca-Santiago, Assistant Ombudsman for the Visayas and head of its Western Visayas office in Iloilo.

Apostol who successfully prosecuted Erap Estrada for plunder, was enraged after she usurped his power. He had dismissed charges against Rep. Niel C. Tupas, Jr. (LP, 5th district) two years ago for lack of merit but Palanca-Santiago reversed his resolution by ordering Tupas to answer the complaints.

That good news is long overdue. This is the 35th in the series already and I have been calling that  Palanca-Santiago, embalmed version of Mommy Dionisiawhose sense of right and wrong is as revolting as her looks, should not beallowed to slip silently into retirement but be investigated.

Big time cases just lied and died at her doorstep. She slept on the PaviaHousing Scam which involved P130 million with Rep. Jerry Treñas at its center.

She sat on the multi-million embezzlement (P6 million ghost cellphone delivery and the P26 million sale of overpriced and defective heavy equipment) that Iloilo Provincial Administrator Manuel Mejorada slap on Iloilo 2nd district Rep. Augusto Syjuco in 2003.

She abused her power to the point of rigging the case of P1 million road repair in Igbaras just to pin down Igbaras mayor Jaime Esmeralda and two employees of the southern Iloilo town.

Esmeralda et al were sued in February 2005 by a pack of charlatans masquerading as graft busters led by a perpetual bar flunker and a cleric whose looks reminds us of our affinity with primates.

The charlatans called the regravelling of over 6 kilometers of mountain roads“ghost” and proved that with a thick wad of affidavits, lifted from a single template with only the personal circumstances of the affiants differing. Thesworn statements chorused that the signatories saw no heavy equipment delivering sand and gravel, or levelling the aggregates on the surface of roads.

The project was done in April 2004, before the elections. VirginiaPalanca-Santiago’s sent  investigator Roderick Blazo to Igbaras in November ofthe same year. He found probable cause against the respondents by switching theory. He started off with a ghost project yearn but spun substandard implementation in the end.

Blazo came to the scene six months after and he still found traces of implementation – sand and gravel, and the bags of cement, steel bars and concrete culverts on the roadside to construct a drainage canal.

Blazo, in belabored English, ensured no escape for Esmeralda et al by faulting them for substandard implementation, as if he were inspecting a road construction, not mere re-gravelling, that led him to idiotic conclusions.

His report acknowledged implementation but Esmeralda was still guilty because the surface aggregates fell below one-inch thick, some portions only 3 meters wide, below the 5-meter standard. Some portions had too much aggregates while some had none.

The COA inspected the scene earlier and found no irregularity. Of the P1 million budget, nearly half a million was spent for aggregates (which was not enough to cover the 6-kilometer span), the rest for the materials of the drainage canal, and the balance of P150,000 awaiting release. Blazo missed those facts.

Municipal treasurer Cynthia Cabañero and secretary to the mayor Pio Elumba complied with Esmeralda’s order to receive the deliveries but Blazo andPalanca-Santiago faulted them because they were not engineers, hence not qualified, to inspect the goods. What kind of law is that?

Esmeralda et al were meted six months preventive suspension though their answers
were still in transit. The case was filed on February 2005 the preventive suspension came in less than a month. Palanca-Santiago prejudged it. She considered evidence “strong” even though she was yet to read her victims’ answers.

Contrast that to plunder cases. In 2004, before the elections, lawyers Romeo Gerochi, Antonio Pesina and Raul Gonzalez, Jr. (as chair of the investigating body at the city council) filed separate graft charges on Treñas et al on the Pavia Housing Scandal.

Their evidence was damning: all 413 shelters were unfinished, the materials substandard, the contractor fled. The probe body recommended rescission and suing the contractor but Treñas defied it: he even continued paying up to P90 million and failed to seize the contractor’s bonds to lessen the loss. (to be continued) 


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