By Pet Melliza/ The Beekeeper
We commended earlier in this space Atty. Sonette S. Daquita for advocating two measures upon her assumption as regional director of the Office of the Ombudsman in W. Visayas. One is to hone the skills of her investigators, the other to de-clog the docket by referring to the Commission on Audit (COA) and the Civil Service Commission (CSC) matters falling under their respective competence.
Pelagio Apostol Jr. has gargantuan tasks ahead of him since he started functioning as Deputy Ombudsman (DO). He was appointment in 2007 but was sidelined. The one acting de facto head of Visayas was Virginia Palanca-Santiago.
Apostol recovered his authority as mandated by RA 6770 after Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez resigned in disgrace March 31, 2011.
Gutierrez emasculated Apostol and bequeathed on her co-alumna at Ateneo Law, Palanca-Santiago, the title “assistant ombudsman” to circumvent RA 6770 that positions the deputy ombudsmen next to the ombudsman.
The fiction enabled Palanca-Santiago to usurp the power that RA 6770 vested on the DO. That spurious position licensed her to (mis)represent Visayas in conferences with the Ombudsman that kept Apostol in the dark.
Palanca-Santiago misused that title by accrediting a shadowy clique in Lapu-Lapu City as “graft prevention unit” whose head, a businessman but born-loser politician, seized to harass victorious rival, former Lapu-Lapu mayor, now Rep. Arturo Radaza.
Palanca-Santiago indicted Radaza in 2007 but the latter was acquitted by the Sandiganbayan because the complaint had no merit. Radaza turned the table on Palanca-Santiago by suing her for misconduct and partiality for accrediting misfits into “graft prevention unit”. He had no choice but fight back as the embalmbed version of Mommy Dionisia overstepped the bounds of civilized conduct when, for the second time, she indicted Radaza in 2009 for purchasing “overpriced” computers even without COA findings.
Palanca-Santiago did the same in Iloilo in 2005 when she administratively convicted then Igbaras mayor Jaime Esmeralda and two officials for the P1 million “ghost road rehabilitation project”. She accredited charlatans into the “graft prevention unit”, the Iloilo People’s Graftwatch, Inc. led by a perpetual bar flunker and a cleric who proves the Evolution Theory by merely showing his face around.
The project, implemented in April 2004, entailed re-gravelling of two stretches of roads spanning more than six kilometers and the installation of concrete culverts for drainage.
Palanca-Santiago sent Roderick Blazo November 11, 2004 who later proved himself quack investigator. He stayed for a few hours then returned to Iloilo City afternoon to catch the last flight back to Cebu.
He merely collected thick wads of affidavits from alleged witnesses. The sworn statements, lifted from a single template with only the personal circumstances of the affiants diffrering, chorused they saw no heavy equipment delivering filling materials nor graders leveling the surface in the period.
Blazo reported traces of implementation like the earth filling materials, the steelbars, concrete culverts and bags of cement – enough to trash the ghost project yarn but switched theory. He concluded that the respondents were liable nevertheless because the implementation was substandard. Worse, according to him, they inspected the deliveries though they were “not qualified” being non-engineers.
Blazo noted that the gravel surface was uneven and below the one-inch standard and some sections of the roads were only 3.9 meters wide, shorter than the standard five meters.
I wrote earlier that Daquita could tap my services in training her investigators. Blazo is a sloppy investigator and incoherent writer. He missed the fact that the COA did not disallow the project, that the town auditor certified that some P150,000 were still in the treasury to install the drainage.
One million pesos was insufficient to regravel more than six kilometers. Blazo came to the scene only in November 2004, seven months after when the mountain roads were already ravaged by storms.
Edna Juanillo, OIC of PAG-ASA’s Climatology and Agrometeorology Division, identified two typhoons that passed Iloilo – “Gener” on June 7 – 8 and “Pablo” September 15 – 17, 2004.
The graftwatch boys sent in GMA’s Kara David whose “i-Witness” episode in June 2005, more than a year after implementation, parroted the ghost project yarn which she unabashedly punctuated with unnamed “but reliable sources in PAG-ASA” declaring no storm passed Igbaras in the period.
Are you trying to be cute to the sponsors of your trip to Igbaras, Kara?