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VIRGINIA PALANCA-SANTIAGO’S EXERCISE OF RAW POWER (43)


By Pet Melliza/ The Beekeeper

 
 
Facts are getting clearer that the Ombudsman-Visayas handpicked a quack investigator, Roderick Blazo, to probe the so-called “ghost” road rehabilitation project in Igbaras, Iloilo. He crumbled to pieces on his own weight April 23 at the Sandiganbayan hearing. His own admissions showed he rigged his findings.
 

Virginia Palanca-Santiago, who prefers to be called “Assistant Ombudsman”, a non-existing moniker in RA 6770 should be held liable for mobilizing this misfit. Blazo could not even read the program of works prepared by Anatacio Escobido, municipal engineer of Igbaras, Iloilo for the two mountain roads.

 
Senate President Franklin Drilon granted Igbaras P1 million to rehabilitate two mountain roads which was implemented in April 2004.
 
However, an entity led by a political enemy of then Mayor Jaime Esmeralda orchestrated a noise, and later, an investigation after then councilor Vicente Escorpion cried “ghost project”.
 
Escorpion is now mayor while his nemesis Esmeralda the vice mayor. Palanca-Santiago, then chief of the Ombudsman regional office in W. Visayas, accredited him and his group as graftwatch partner.
 
Palanca-Santiago is wont to accredit dubious characters into “graft prevention units” as partners to investigate grafters. Lapu-Lapu Rep. Arturo Radaza sued her for grave misconduct for giving due course to a malicious complaint filed by the Mactan chamber of commerce led by a defeated rival in the 2010 elections. The complainant faced P4 million tax evasion suit, why did she accredit him despite clear disqualification? asked Radaza. The complaint filed by Palanca-Santiago was dismissed by the Sandiganbayan.
 
In the Esmeralda case, Blazo recommended in his report that the mayor, the town treasurer and the mayor’s private secretary be held administratively guilty and indicted for violating the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act. He cited the following grounds: (1) the implementation was substandard as some parts, the road had no gravel, thus, falling short of the specification of one-inch thickness; (2) some portions measured only 3.6 to 3.9 meters, again, failing the five-meter width standard; (c) the municipal engineer was unaware of the implementation of the project; and (d) the treasurer and private secretary signed the acceptance and inspection report (AIR) when “they were not qualified” to do so.
 
His is backed by a thick wad of affidavits attesting to zero implementation. His findings shows otherwise: there is implementation only that it is substandard and violates the programa of work.
 
Blazo was shred to pieces during cross examination. The defense confronted him with the programs of work for the two roads specifying an “aggregate base course” of only four meters, not five as he contended. Another counsel showed him the COA report where the municipal engineer justified the uneven distribution of gravel “due to the nature of the roads”, thus, debunking Blazo’s yarn that the engineer was “unaware”.
 
Another read out to him Section 118 of the COA’s Government New Manual for Accounting that mandates the general services officer (GSO) or treasurer to “accept” delivered goods before “inspection” by a “duly authorized” officer in a form called “Acceptance and Inspection Report” or AIR. Blazo held the treasurer and the mayor’s private secretary liable for signing the AIR.
 

Blazo was barely four months into the Ombudsman when he probed the case. He said he considered other circumstances, namely: that (1) he came to Igbaras only in November 8, 2004, eight months after-the-fact, (2) in that period storms visited Igbaras, (3) these were dirt roads carved out on slopes or hillsides; and (4) the two roads repaired spanned more than six kilometers. 

 
At cross-examinations, Blazo admitted he skirted other factors in his report and ignored the accused’s counter-affidavit that invoked Section 118 of the COA accounting manual. He justified that because he was “forbidden to deal” with the accused during investigation. He could not specify which portions of the roads had no surface materials or less than five meters wide. He admitted he only used a still camera and a tape measure to do the job. 

He came on first flight Cebu-Iloilo, reached Igbaras noontime, inspected the roads and rushed back to the airport to catch the last flight (4 pm) back to Cebu; he spent three hours in town. In contrast, COA people spent two days in Igbaras to inspect the two roads and found no irregularity.
 
Enough of this quack.  
 
 
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