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No closure to Pavia housing mess


This August 31, the six-hectare property of Iloilo City at Pavia, Iloilo will be up for public auction.  This is the site of the storm called “Pavia Housing Scam” with former mayor, now Rep. Jerry Treñas at its center wind. 

The Pavia Housing Scandal involved P132 million of people’s money going down the drain. It was a broad daylight robbery pure and simple with city officials helping themselves to the public treasury along with Ace Builders Enterprises, Inc. (ABEI). Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog explains that by putting the property to the auction bloc, the ghost of the Pavia Housing Scandal would be put to rest. The “closure”, he adds, will make Iloilo City move forward. 

Whatever. The housing scandal is a sore thumb that can’t just be hidden under the glove. There can be no closure so long as the P132-million loss incites mass amnesia and thieves responsible for that are still much around and unrepentant. 

The project begun in the last months of the administration of Mayor Mansueto Malabor, 2001. In fairness to him though, construction works started in the first term of his successor, Treñas.  Malabor released P15 million in “mobilization” fund to enable the contractor lay down the groundwork. The rest of the payments were done by Treñas reaching P90 million.  

There lies the controversy. Barely a year passed in his first term did the scandal broke out. Subcontractors spilled the beans by stopped the work declaring they had to use substandard materials because ABEI paid them only a pittance. The principal contractor had no choice but spread mere crumbs to its subcontractors because city officials already sliced off huge chunks of the budget. That explains why ABEI got only a kid’s glove treatment, not even a slap on the wrist, for the fiasco. 

In 2004, before the elections three graft charges were slapped on Treñas et al by Atty. Antonio Pesina, a councillor then, Atty. Romeo Gerochi, and the probe body of the sangguniang panglungsod led by Kagawad Raul Gonzalez, Jr. 

Gonzalez’s investigation committee recommended among others rescission of the contract, sue ABEI for damages, and haul to court Treñas et al for their complicity to rob Ilonggos blind.  

Treñas skirted the committee recommendations. The city engineer reported that the 413 unfinished units were substandard but he still ignored him and pushed ahead paying ABEI up to P90 million. He would have made the fourth and final payment only that the sanggunian stopped him. But he pulled off another trick by transferring account from the Philippine National Bank (PNB) to the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) which bled taxpayers further by P12 million in “documentation” charges. 

Treñas was lucky that the Office of the Ombudsman was  true copy of Monalisa where many complaints and dreams had been brought to its doorsteps where they just lied there, and they died there. 

Virginia Palanca-Santiago, Assistant Ombudsman for the Visayas, Mark Jalandoni, Deputy Ombudsman for Luzon, and Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez conspired with Treñas et al in white washing the scandal. 

Of the three now, only Virginia Palanca-Santiago, also chief of the Western Visayas Office of the Ombudsman, still remains. Mark Jalandoni had already resigned in discrace while Merceditas Gutierrez followed suit before the impeachment trial could catch up with her. 

All the records pertaining to the Pavia Housing Scandal disappeared in the Visayas Office. No one else is to blame but Virginia Palanca-Santiago who I have been tagging in the series “Virginia Palanca-Santiago’s Exercise of Raw Power” as the embalmed version of MommyDionisia, a moral pygmy whose sense of right and wrong is as revolting as her looks. 

Pelagio Apostol, Jr., Deputy Ombudsman for the Visayas, should investigate why the Pavia housing documents disappeared in the Visayas office when Virginia Palanca-Santiago was calling the shots. It is not just the records of the Pavia Housing Scandal in fact that disappeared. 

That also happened to the complaints filed by market vendors against their mayor in one Iloilo town in 2009. The plaintiffs had been unceremoniously plucked from their designated positions at the market anddumped far away. When they returned one morning, they were greeted by armed cops. Their fish was seized which were later buried by “bañeras” at the plaza. Such display of raw power doubled the vendors’ losses; they still had to repay loan sharks after losing their merchandize. Some of their colleagues were arrested and charged for “assault”. 

There’s no closure: the housing mess is another blot in the face of the embalmed Mommy Dionisia.


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