Mona Lisa y Rosa Mia

 

Taga-Bulans can’t help but sing Nat King Cole’s song every time they talk about our public hospital in Pawa.

 

    Almost always they chorus:

 

Many dreams have been brought to your doorstep. They just lie there, and they die there!

Are you warm? Are you real, Mona Lisa?

Or just a cold and lonely, lovely work of art?

 

    Ironically, however, Bulan’s general hospital is far from being a “lovely work of art”, cold during the Christmas season and unbearably warm in summer.

 

    And if that is not enough to send chills down your spine, most of the emergency patients brought to its doorstep don’t get proper medical attention, they just lie there, and yes, they die there!

 

    Last year (December 3, 2007), for instance, a “not-so-discreet” love triangle ended in a bloody confrontation between a jealous lover and an Indian national inside Bulan’s One Concepcion lodging house, along the town’s business center. The Indian national was attacked inside the motel room while he and his 25-year old mistress were about to begin their sexual congress.

 

    The “jealous” lover reportedly barged into the room, armed with a knife, and brutally stabbed the Indian national several times before turning to the woman who was taking a bath. The woman frantically fled the motel naked, after she, too, was fatally wounded by the assailant. She negotiated the steep stairwell of the lodging house and collapsed at the side walk of de Castro St. (formerly Disky Boulevard), where she and her Indian lover were rushed to the Pantaleon Gotladera Memorial Hospital in Pawa.

 

    At the hospital, no physician was on duty. Only nurses were there to attend to the victims. There were not a single emergency facility in the “operating room” or even much-needed medicial supplies.

 

    The hapless Indian national expired without receiving any medical attention or anything to ease his trauma except for the medical staff’s checking the victim’s blood pressure.

 

    During police investigation, however, a suspicious “twist” of events attended the “love triangle” angle.

 

    According to initial police investigation reports, Ana Gipit (the supposed victim of the Indian national) confessed to police investigators SPO1 Edgar Calupit and SPO1 Maricel Gelilio that she (Gipit) was the one who stabbed Raji Want Singh for allegedly attempting to rape her inside the Concepcion Lodging House. Another report, however, claims that Singh was a sadist who derives sexual pleasure by wounding his partner Gipit who, in turn, grabbed the fan knife (balisong) from Singh and killed the latter.

 

    With these reports, the angle of a “love triangle” is conveniently eliminated, but for whose convenience, friends sympathetic to Singh could only speculate.

 

    But more than this “crime thriller” is the present state of Bulan’s Pantaleon Gotladera General Hospital (named after the late mayor Gotladera) – a deplorable state that the de Castro administration would rather sweep under the rug than help improve it.

 

    Every time the hospital’s condition is talked about Mayor de Castro’s ready-made-alibi is that “the LGU of Bulan is not responsible for its maintenance” since it is a “district hospital” and therefore under the care of the provincial government.

 

    Para ba’ng, “wala-akong –pakialam-d’yan-di-ko-naman-sakop-‘yan,-eh” na attitude, no?

 

    Such an attitude is somewhat expected from uncaring public officials. But Rosa de Castro’s recent pronouncement over the radio (on Imbing Asuncion’s Radyo Patrol Bulan last Friday, May 9, 2008) about the same “uncaring” attitude of the ongoing margaha or magnetite quarrying in the beaches of Bulan raises the eyebrows of Taga-Bulans.

 

    Rosa said, her office does not know anything about the operation of Cesar Detera’s Alexandra Mining since it (Alexandra) is engage in small scale mining which only the provincial government is involved in issuing mining permits.

 

    Whew! Pwede na talaga pang Ripley’s “Believe It Or Not” ini si May!

 

    Kun an mga makaluluoy ngani na para tinda sin gulay sa relansi diri nira pipatawad sa pagsukot sin bayad para magtinda sin tinumpok na gaway o kamote, mao pa ada an milyun-milyon na negosyo sin paghakot san saato baybay pakadto sa China an diri nira sukuton sin bayad?

 

    I leave this to you to ponder. I will be back next week for more updates on our Crusade for Good Government.

  

Bulan’s “Blood” Sand

 

     Weeks ago, incessant rains claim at least 20 lives and left over a thousand families homeless in Bulan’s adjacent towns of Magallanes and Juban as well as barangay San Roque, Bulusan. A great mass of earth denuded by loggers (I’m not sure if they are “illegal” loggers since both the laws of rebel NPA and infidel PNP tolerate rape of our forests) collapsed and buried the Barangays of Incarisan in Magallanes, and certain barangays of Juban.

 

    In Bulan, barangays San Vicente and Managa-naga, flood waters rose to a record high of at least 4 feet deep. The “elite” Immaculate Conception subdivision (built along historic Banuang Daan River) was practically underwater when the continuous rains of February rose to a little less than 5 feet deep eroding the river bank together with the several houses built alongside.

 

    The same was true with the over-rated Villa Las Palmas subdivision which looked like a lagoon after heavy rains poured over the province. The Villa Las Palmas experience, however, was not a surprise to many. The area is a natural catch-basin for Sta. Remedios rainwaters and the nearby Calomagon and San Juan highlands. Many even wondered why this place was converted into subdivision when even on ordinary days the area is easily flooded due to its low location.

 

    Heaven forbid! But Bulan may just be another disaster-stricken town at the rate our coastline is being shaved-off of our precious margaha sand.

 

    Incidentally, Fr. Josefino Bayto Chavenia or Fr. Chubby (pronounced “Choo-by”)’s first death anniversary was remembered last March 9, 2008. That day fell on a Sunday the Gospel of which is about death and resurrection – a coincidence that seemed to tell us what Fr. Chubby died for: standing up for what is right even if it meant losing his life.

 

    Fr. Chubby knew he has a failing heart. But this he kept from those he loves. Having a heart ailment for years already, he did not talk about it. It did not even stop him from joining, nay leading, his parishioners to a “heart-straining” rally to protest the reopening of the Lafayette Mining operations in Rapu-Rapu, Albay.

 

    That year, March 9, 2007, Fr. Chubby braved the long march around Sorsogon’s capital. He marched with the farmers, the poor, the lay people and Sorsogon’s professionals. Sadly though, along with Fr. Chubby’s death so was Sorsogon’s mass actions against what ails our country today.

 

    Corruption in grand scale abounds. Government leaders with no shame at all parade their loot as though they’ve won it from a lottery. Calls for reform or resignation are continuously ignored.

 

    Under the scorching heat of last year’s summer sun Father Chubby offered his life – to save our environment from the pillage of greed-driven individuals and their equally greedy partners in government.

 

    He heeded his bishop’s call to stage a mass action in Sorsogon to protest the ongoing mining by foreign nationals in the island of Rapu-Rapu in Albay. Little did Fr. Chubby know, however, that a much the same pillage of our environment is happening in his own hometown of Bulan.

 

    Yes, this quiet little town of Bulan is being shipped to China by its very own Papay and Mamay!

 

    And it happened just when everybody thinks Guiming De Castro bought the town already, because of his “rumalayas na kamo sa Bulan caper”.

 

    Well, we were all wrong. Guiming and Rosa de Castro are actually selling Bulan, tons by tons – at the expense of our very own safety.

 

    In late 2006, ALEXANDRA MINING VENTURES purportedly secured an environmental compliance certificate (ECC) from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to engage in quarrying of magnetite sand along the northern coastal barangays of Bulan, one of which is barangay Namo.

 

    In one of its operations last year, Alexandra Mining shipped a total of 2,907 metric tons to Jingtang Gang, China on board M.V. “Pine Pia” and the cargo is consigned to one Wong Tai General Merchandize Ltd. of Wan Hai, Hong Kong.

 

    Sorsogonnews checked the credentials of Alexandra Mining and found it to be holding office at No. 39 Carmel Subdivision, Project 6, Quezon City and, just like Geming’s supposed contractor of the bus terminal, Alexandra Mining is, conveniently, a “single proprietorship” owned by one CESAR ESTAYAN DETERA.

 

    Magnetite sand is commonly known in Bulan as margaha. The beaches of Pon-od, Inararan up to Danao are covered by this magnetic sand, believed to have been carried by the waves to the shorelines from the sea. Those of us who studied grade school in Bulan must have participated in a science experiment where we discovered margaha’s magnetic qualities. Remember the speckles of margaha “dancing” on top of a sheet of paper as magnet is moved from corner to corner of the paper?

 

    Articles in the web place the selling price of margaha in Nevada, U.S.A., ranges from $40 to $52 per kilo or Php.1,600 to Php.2,080 per kilo. If you care to compute how much 2,907 metric tons of margaha cost, roughly, it would be P6M. Considering that Alexandra Mining ships margaha to China on the average of 3,000 metric tons per quarter, Bulan would have had earned millions of pesos, too, from fees and taxes levied and assessed from Alexandra Mining.

 

    But there’s the rub!

 

    Barangay Namo does not receive a single centavo from Alexandra’s margaha quarrying. The quarry operators even exploit barangay folks and children by paying them a measly pay of 80 centavos for every kilo of black sand they haul from the shorelines to Alexadra’s dump site, some 300 meters away.

 

     Sorsogonnews also managed to photograph the quarry site and saw that most of Bulan’s heavy equipment service Alexandra Mining’s operation from day one to this day. Had the rental for these equipment, like the backhoe in the picture, been properly charged and collected, Bulan’s coffers would have been enriched by at least P720,000 per quarter.

 

 

 

     A check made with Bulan’s 2008 Annual Budget, however, reveal no such income from an obviously profitable undertaking. In 2006 (the year Alexandra Mining started its operation in Bulan), the municipality of Bulan, under the auspices of Rosa De Castro, reported a measly sum of P479.00 pesos as taxes collected from “sand, gravel and other quarry products”.

    In Rosa’s approved annual budget this year (2008) income estimate for quarrying is unimaginably placed at P20,000 only –  a stark contrast to the annual 24 million pesos Alexandra Mining is profiting from margaha! Pira na milyon an nawawara sa taxes and fees na dapat bayadan san paghakot san margaha pakadto sa China!

    Since Bulan’s heavy equipment are being used, it is also surprising that Bulan has no income estimates for its rentals. Or is it just a scheme to keep us in the dark as to the real income of our municipal government so they can go on with their unhampered misuse of the people’s money?  

    Curiously, Bishop Arturo Bastes of the Diocese of Sorsogon and most of the Sorsogon clergymen who decried the La Fayette Mining in Rapu-Rapu, Albay are all quiet as to this latest environmental fiasco. Bishop Bastes, who practically pushed Fr. Chubby to death with his ephemeral environmental concerns, has suddenly fell deaf and dumb to what’s happening in his Diocese. Or, to say the least, to what Fr. Josefino Chavenia has died for!

    Their eerie silence is truly disturbing, reminiscent of a decadent society lending credence to allegations of bribery reaching the portals of the temple. 

    With neither drums nor trumpets, Fr. Chubby did his “good sheperd” job. He offered his life if only to save his flock from environmental disaster. I just hope he did not die in vain or we will all be heading to eternal damnation. The least we could do now is to “expose society’s wounds to the light” so the culprits may be brought to justice.

     Or margaha could just be Bulan’s “blood” sand.

kabatas.jpg 

To Bid Or Not To Bid

    I am once again thrilled by the powered responses to this blog by TagaBulans who are really concern about our town and its leaders. At least, for one, this is a positive sign that we will no longer treat elections lightly. Nor are we just going to turn a blind eye on corruption no matter how petty.

     Rudy Bellen and our latest expat reader, Letty, drove the point clearly and quite poignantly: We must do something about our town and it should start with a positive mindset. (I hope Jun Asuncion could write something about this, from the point of view of psychology, changing the mindset of our kabungtos that the issue of corruption is just for politicians to settle. Or worse, for them to take advantage of during elections.)

     I would also like to welcome Rai and Angel who shared their “disappointments” about our “chosen” town leaders. They both, however, shared their optimism of a brighter future for Bulan and the rest of the country.

     Rudy Bellen, though, expressed a very valid concern of this blogging “exercise” that we are all engaged in, that, according to him, we should not allow ourselves to be reduced to mere “tsimosos and tsimosas” by hurling accusations without a solid backing of evidence. In the early evening news tonight, former Solicitor General Marcelo, was also talking about “evidence” to build a really tight case against corrupt officials. Reason why we, the petitioners in the Mandamus case against Bulan Mayor Rosa de Castro, are very careful in gathering evidence in Bulan’s most expensive bus terminal.

     The petition for mandamus, if I may explain again, is resorted to by the petitioners precisely to give the conjugal leadership of Geming and Rosa de Castro a chance to dispel all doubts on the real cost of the bus terminal project and certain collateral issues, like the violation of the Agrarian Reform Law, where a tenant of the De Castro’s was illegally removed and that there was no proper conversion of the land from agricultural to commercial use. Or the violation of the government Procurement Act which is very similar to the controversial ZTE broadband project of the Arroyo administration.

     The Bulan Central Bus Terminal suffers the same criticism that the project (bus terminal) did not go through the process of a transparent competitive bidding as required by the Government Procurement Act of 2003 and why did the De Castro’s not opt for a less controversial Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) scheme which is more beneficial to the government. A BOT scheme would not involve substantial capital outlay on the part of the local government.

     Moreover, there are allegations too, that the feasibility study supposedly prepared to determine the viability of the bus terminal, was rigged to favor the approval of the P40 million loan from the Land Bank. According to the petitioners, Land Bank was duped into believing that the Bulan-Masbate trade was so vibrant and that the bus terminal would draw most of its income from Masbate commuters precisely because of this supposed strong trade ties between Masbate and Bulan. What the De Castros did not reveal to Landbank is that half, if not all of Masbate traders now do business with Pilar, Sorsogon rather than with Bulan due to the unresolved problems in porterage and some administrative lapses in the port.

     These allegations of corruption are even aggravated by the fact that no bidding was conducted on who should do the feasibility study considering that the cost of the study itself is about P2 million. Diri yuon karawkaraw, feasibility study pa lang, dos milyones na!

     When I asked Geming (during our face-off over Imbing Asuncion’s Radyo Patrol program) whether a study was conducted to determine the viability and rationale of a bus terminal outside Bulan’s poblacion, he quickly retorted, there is. He said it was Junio M. Ragragio who did the study. He then taunted me to jot down Ragragio’s address if I would care to verify.

     What probably slipped Geming’s beautiful mind was that I knew Jun Ragragio from way back. He was Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s Chief of Staff in the Senate who moved to the Batasan to work for then Cong. Tessie Aquino-Oreta.

     But that’s not what intrigues me. Jun Ragragio is from Magallanes, Sorsogon who had confided to me his close blood ties with Geming de Castro. He and Geming both descended from the de Castro clan of Magallanes, Sorsogon. Without putting to question Jun Ragragio’s capability as a consulting service provider, the de Castros’ choice of a blood relative, however, may involve a question of propriety.

     Again, to give the conjugal administration of Geming and Rosa a chance to show to all TagaBulans that everything about the Bulan Bus Terminal Project is above-board is to make public all its records, documents and papers, which includes whether the choice of Ragragio as a consulting service provider was a result of “competitive bidding” required by law. If so, who were the bidders who were outbidded by Ragragio, their eligibility as well as the “specific requirements and mechanics” required of them by the local government.

      The same is true with the process the De Castros adopted in the contractor of the bus terminal. Mayor De Castro claims that the contract to build the bus terminal was awarded to Baldon Construction Supply of Shirley Baldon of Pampang, Sorsogon City.

     A check with the profile of this “construction company” showed that it is a single proprietorship with no known qualifications to undertake projects of this nature.

     But what the De Castros cannot show is whether or not a competitive bidding was conducted before they awarded the bus terminal project to Baldon Construction. What they showed only was a notice or invitation to bid as published in Philippine Star newspaper. Perhaps Rosa thought, the TagaBulans are that stupid, that we would be easily duped into believing that an “invitation to bid” is the same as the bidding itself.

     The De Castros may be “smart”, but we are not stupid!

     Amidst the clamor for the production of all official records, documents and papers pertaining the bus terminal, Rosa et. al., circulated a malicious rumor that the Petition for Mandamus was dismissed by the court a quo and warned petitioners to “better prepare themselves” for a multi-million damage suit that they (the De Castros) intend to file against the petitioners.

     Does that sound familiar?

     Grafters and corrupt officials trapped by the truth, always threaten truth advocates with libel and/or damage suit.

     Ironically, however, when the case was called for hearing last February 11 at the sala of the Regional Trial Court in Sorsogon City, neither Rosa De Castro nor her lawyer was present which prompted the presiding judge to issue a stern warning to them. The De Castro camp’s silence is deafening. Those who received “xeroxed” copies of the petition’s supposed “Order of Dimissal” (sent by Bulan’s Public Information Office) are now wondering why they were not sent copies of the petitioners’ Motion for Reconsideration considering that taxpapeyers’ money was used by Bulan’s PIO in circulating the “Order of Dismissal”. Does the PIO believe that only news or information favorable to Rosa deserved to be circulated?

         Well, as they themselves proclaim, pulitika lang ‘yan!

kabatas.jpg 

 God Didn’t Make Instant Coffee

   Over breakfast the other day, my wife was so pissed off on the reported “disappearance” of ZTE broadband controversy witness, Rodolfo Lozada, Jr., upon his arrival at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).

     She was so disappointed at the way the “wheel of justice” is turning in our country. She said the bad guys seemed to get away with their “evil” schemes while the good guys continue to suffer.

     My wife was complaining at what she termed as “circuitous” process of bringing law breakers to justice. She could not understand why the Supreme Court had to stop the Senate from arresting Secretary Romulo Nery when the Senate merely wanted the NEDA Secretary to appear before the Blue Ribbon Committee and tell everything he knows about the NBN-ZTE deal. I had to explain to my wife that that’s how justice is administered; it’s a slow process of listening to all sides and painstakingly “sifting” every data to come up with convincing evidence.

     I was of course enjoying my usual cup of sinara na kape (brewed “barako” coffee) as I listened to her. Then, as the aroma of coffee filled my nostrils, I said,     

     “You know, Vyks (that’s short for “Vicky”), God did not make instant coffee. He gave us instead a coffee tree to plant, a fruit to harvest, to dry, to roast, to grind. A water to boil, to evaporate, to condense, to drop on roasted coffee, to extract the best tasting beverage from coffee. All these hustle, to perk our every morning that God gave us.”

     I almost lost my lunch that day when my wife told me to start pounding the palay and make some rice!

     In the early Friday morning of February 8, however, we woke up to the angelic confessions of a man who refused to be drowned by the dark. Jun Lozada came out, miraculuously unscathed, with a firm resolve to be with the light! He went on with his confessions to the Senate and bared his soul. Not even Miriam Defensor could becloud the issue with her “credibility testing one, two, three. . ”. Jun Lozada, like the Jedi that he is, spit it all out as though “The Force” was really with him. He came out “with the courage of the truth”, and came out truly triumphant.

     At the breakfast table, my wife quipped again, “That was one quick “brewed coffee”, huh? It all happened in less than 24 hours, from Jun Lozada’s abduction in the airport to his Senate appearance”, then she asked, “Do you think there is a Jun Lozada in Bulan who would finally bring light to the Bulan Bus Terminal scam?”        

    “Nothing is impossible with God,” I retorted.

The Truth About the P80 Million Bulan Bus Terminal Mandamus

By Luisito Panelo

    BULAN, SORSOGON, 04 February 2008 – The euphoria of Mayor Rosa De Castro’s much-heralded “dismissal” of the Petition for Mandamus filed by certain Bulan residents ended today with the filing of a motion for reconsideration by Gogolin, et. al. with the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Bulan in Sorsogon City.

     The motion for recon pointed to certain “errors” in the Order of Judge Adolfo Fajardo of RTC’s Branch 65 and the “lack of legal basis” on the latter’s “conclusions” dismissing the Petition for being “prematurely filed”.

     Atty. Redentor Guyala, counsel for the petitioners, assailed in his motion the court’s reasoning when it said that de Castro “is not prevented at all from adopting some latitude of discretion in the performance of such duties under RA 6718” or the law requiring the mayor to disclose information and grant full access to official records, documents and papers pertaining” to the Bulan Bus Terminal project.

     Atty. Guyala pointed out that the “arguments or reasons advanced by the court are flawed and untenable and CONTRARY to earlier decisions of the Supreme Court, as well as to the facts cited in the Petition.

     The petitioners’ lawyer wrote, “A cursory reading of the provision quoted by the court in its Order showed that Mayor de Castro do not have the kind of ‘latitude of discretion’ in performing her duties under Sec. 11 (d) of RA 6718.” He then added that Mayor de Castro is, in fact, given only a time frame of 15 days from receipt of the letter request to act and she is specifically directed to ACT PROMPTLY, IMMEDIATELY and EXPEDITIOUSLY on requests covered by RA 6718.

     “The language of RA 6718 is too plain and unambiguous for anyone to miss out on the law’s stated imperative”, the motion pointed out.

      “It is unfortunate that the court, in advancing its argument that the respondent mayor ‘is not prevented from adopting some latitude of discretion. . .’ only opted to take short excerpts of Section  8 and 11, par. D of RA 6718 failing to note that the said provisions of law referred only to one type of public document, the Statement of Assets and Liabilities (or SAL) required of public officers or those employed in the government and that said provisions are not applicable to the documents requested by the petitioners.

     “The sections cited by the court, have NO application to petitioners’ requested information and access to official records, documents and papers pertaining to the official acts, transaction or decision of Mayor de Castro concerning the Bulan Bus Terminal Project.”

     Guyala’s Motion also assailed the court’s second argument as erroneous. It provided

     “The court argued that the petition ‘failed to state the legitimate reason for such a request’, but yet failed to cite any law or rule that would require petitioners to first state a ‘legitimate reason’ BEFORE the respondent mayor would recognize the constitutionally guaranteed right to information and access to public records, documents and papers pertaining to the mayor’s bus terminal project and perform her mandated duty under RA 6718.

     “The fact is, there is NO LAW or RULE that requires petitioners to state a reason and settled jurisprudence distinctly held no such requirement. Obviously, this court’s argument stemmed from a misconception of the nature and character of petitioners’ right to information and access to public documents. This misconception is apparent from the court’s equally fallacious (third) argument that ‘the petition failed to show clearly that petitioners have a well defined, clear and certain right to warrant the grant of mandamus’, and its untenable (fifth)  argument that mandamus will not issue in this case ‘where there is NO SPECIFIC RIGHT to be enforced’.

     Refuting these arguments, Atty. Guyala explained that the petitioners request for information and access to public records, documents and papers on the mayor’s project was, verbally and in writing, made to Mayor de Castro on June 28, 2007 during a so-called “Consultative Conference” and in the course of a discussion with her, where the majority of those in attendance were asking to be enlightened about the Project’s “raison d’ etre”, and about certain aspects of the Project which would allow the people of Bulan “to determine whether those to whom they have entrusted the affairs of government are honestly, faithfully and competently performing their function as public servants”, as elucidated in the analogous case of Chavez vs. PCGG (299 SCRA 539).

     Those in attendance, particularly the petitioners, were anxious to verify the truth of the reported violations of the Procurement Law and bidding rules, the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Act, even the National Building Code and Environment Laws and Regulations, which supposedly attended the implementation of the Project.

     “Viewed against this backdrop”, Atty. Guyala further explained, “the ‘purity of intention’ and ‘legitimacy of the motive’ of petitioner  former Vice Mayor Albino G. Guyala III and, as the court put it, ‘his cohorts’ in making their request could not be doubted or questioned. The place where, and the spontaneity in which the said request was made, if anything else, should be sufficient to assure the mayor, and even the court, of petitioners’ good faith in so making it. After all, in law and in everyday life, good faith, rather than malice, is always to be presumed. Malice always needed proof to be believed. An allegation, however, of ‘perennially losing an election’ is never an evidence of malice or bad faith, although unmistakably it is an indication of a decadent and juvenile mindset of the party alleging it.”

     On the right of petitioners to ask the court to compel Mayor de Castro to grant them access to information and public records, the Motion characterized the Right as SELF-EXECUTORY CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT. It is afforded and guaranteed to any citizen of this country under Art. III Section 7 of the 1987 Constitution. According to Constitutionalist Joaquin Bernas’ “The Constitution of the Philippines: A commentary”,

     “The right, moreover, is a public right where the real parties in interest are the people. Hence, every citizen has a “standingto challenge any violation of the right and may seek its enforcement by mandamus.” (2003 Ed, p. 371).

     “In asserting their right, which is a PUBLIC right”, Atty. Guyala further clarified, “petitioners are not duty-bound to first explain their motive or the legitimacy of their purpose to Mayor de Castro whose mandated duty under RA 6718 is to recognize petitioners’ right to information, to act promptly on their letter request, and to make accessible and readily available for inspection within reasonable hours all public documents so requested. To vanish all doubts and misgivings about petitioners’ right and standing to bring this suit for mandamus, Justice Irene Cortez’s ponencia in Legaspi vs. Civil Service Commission, is quoted, viz:

     In the case before Us, the respondent takes issue on the personality of the petitioner to bring this suit. It is asserted that, the instant Petition is bereft of any allegation of Legaspi’s actual interest in the civil service eligibilities of Julian Sibinghanoy and Mariano Agas. At most there is a vague reference to an unnamed client in whose behalf he had allegedly acted when he made inquiries on the subject (Petition, Rollo, p.3). xxx

     “But what is clear upon the face of the Petition is that the petitioner has firmly anchored his case upon the right of the people to information on matters of the public concern, whom, by its very nature, is a public right. It has been held that:

     * * * when the question is one of the public right and the object of the mandamus is to procure the enforcement of a public duty, the people are regarded as the real party in interest and the relator at whose instigation the proceedings are instituted need not show that he has any legal or special interest in the result, it being sufficient to show that he is a citizen and as such interested in the execution of the laws * * * (Tanada et. al. vs. Tuvera et. al., G. R. No. L-63915, April 24, 1985).

     From the foregoing, it becomes apparent that when a Mandamus proceeding involves the assertion of a public right, the requirement of personal interest is satisfied by the mere fact that the petitioner is a citizen, and therefore, part of the general ‘public’ which possesses the right.

     * * * ‘Public is a comprehensive, all-inclusive term. Properly construed, it embraces every person. To say that only those who have a present and existing interest of a pecuniary character in the particular information sought are given the right of inspection is to make an unwarranted distinction. * * * (Subido vs. Ozaeta, supra at p.387)’

     The petitioner, being a citizen, who as such is clothed with personality to seek redress for the alleged obstruction of the exercise of the public right. We find no cogent reason to deny his standing to bring the present suit.

     Atty. Guyala’s Motion also find the court’s argument as untenable and erroneous when the latter advanced the arguments that “within the machinery of the LGU”, an administrative remedy is available to the petitioners, like the filing of an administrative complaint citing in support the case of Militante vs. Honorable Court of Appeals.

     “There are basic fundamental factual differences between this instant (Gogolin’s) petition and that of Militante’s, such that the general principle of exhaustion of administrative remedies finds NO application in this petition”, Guyala’s motion for reconsideration pointed out.

     “In the Militante case, petitioner sought the implementation of a private right, that is, a demolition order which was not directly addressed to the respondent, nor was it respondent’s mandated duty to act on it. And significantly, in the Militante case, there were other administrative officers superior to her who could grant the relief prayed for, as those superior officers could act instead, or substitute, or overturn respondent’s act. Respondent Carandang was a mere department manager in the National Housing Authority (NHA) whose General Manager is Gaudencio Tobias. On the other hand, in the instant petition, petitioners are asserting a PUBLIC RIGHT, a constitutional self-executory PUBLIC right. And unlike respondent Carandang in the Militante case, Mayor de Castro is not a subordinate, but the ‘top Indian’ in the totem pole of the local government unit (LGU) of the town of Bulan. No one can substitute for, or reverse her decision, or can the respondent be legally compelled to do her mandated duty under RA 6718 by anyone, except only by the court. The respondent mayor is the CHIEF EXECUTIVE of her political, territorial domain, the LGU of Bulan. Consequently, unlike in the Militante case, the suggested administrative remedy of the court is impractical and unrealistic, and it is not PLAIN, SPEEDY and ADEQUATE remedy. An administrative complaint as suggested by the court ‘within the machinery of the LGU’ will certainly not be adequate, even if it would result in respondent mayor being censured, reprimanded or suspended, which, under our political culture and the local dispensation are well nigh impractical and unrealistic.”

     Atty. Guyala’s Motion for Reconsideration outlined to the court the instances where the law itself provided for exceptions to the applicability of the doctrine of exhaustion of administrative remedies. He wrote:

    1.    Where there is unreasonable delay or official inaction that will irretrievably prejudice the petitioners.

    2.    Where to exhaust administrative review or remedies is impractical and unreasonable.

    3.    When no administrative review is expressly provided by law.

    4.    When there is urgent need for judicial intervention or when strong public interest is involved.

    5.    When the only question involved is one of law.

     In summary, Guyala’s Motion stressed that, what is challenged before the court is Mayor de Castro’s “unreasonable and continuing inaction on, albeit refusal to grant, petitioners’ verbal and written request for information and “access to official records, documents ad papers pertaining to official acts, transaction or decision” of Mayor de Castro and her predecessor in office, Guillermo de Castro, relative to the Bulan Bus Terminal Project being undertaken by her in Barangay Fabrika, Bulan, Sorsogon”.

       The mayor’s inaction or refusal to grant petitioners the desired information and access, according to the Motion, constituted a violation of petitioners’ right to information and access to official records, etc. under Art. III, Section 7 (Bill of Rights) of the 1987 Constitution. And the filing of the Petition for Mandamus was intended to compel Mayor de Castro to disclose the information and to grant the access requested.

     By way of an epilogue, the Motion for Reconsideration concluded:

         “Of late, the Philippines has earned the notoriety of being dubbed the “most corrupt country” in Asia. As citizens of this country, petitioners, like other Filipinos, are uneasy and uncomfortable with such an appellation. Wide-spread as graft and corruption are perceived by many to be in this country, petitioners are just as anxious and prayerful as others, that such a notoriety will not visit their hometown, notwithstanding that already a large number of Bulan residents, rightly or wrongly, believe that the “plague” (or is it a “pillage”) has long come to Bulan, as early as 1995. Petitioners though, still cherish the hope, that with this court’s help, and in their small way, they can still forestall the spread in epidemic proportion of such a plague or pillage in Bulan. Heaven forbids! This motion for reconsideration, therefore, as with the earlier filing of this petition, is made purely in that light, hope and faith, surely “with malice towards none and charity to all”.

kabatas.jpg 

    Poetic Justice

    The Webster Dictionary defines “Vexation” as “A feeling of annoyance or irritation”. So that when somebody annoys or irritates another he is said to be “vexing” that person.

      Just before the 2004 Presidential and local elections, Geming De Castro was apparently annoyed by the fact that he was not invited to “deliver” a speech during the coronation of a barangay fiesta queen in Sta. Remedios (Bulan, Sorsogon).

      Perhaps thinking of himself a king, Geming may have developed a sense of dominion over all of TagaBulans and expects all of us to pay our respects to him before we could even decide what to do with our lives.

       Geming, who was then the incumbent mayor, claimed he was embarrassed when instead of inviting him, the Parents Teachers Association (PTA) of Sta.Remedios Elementary School asked another mayoralty candidate, Cesar Boy Gogola to the coronation ceremonies. According to Geming, “for the past six (6) years (he) was always invited to deliver the fiesta message” in Sta. Remedios. The decision, therefore, of the PTA to replace him with Boy Gogola is a politically-motivated scheme and purely aimed at “vexing, annoying and humiliating” him.

      Not wanting others to follow suit, Geming wielded his power. Instead of being vexed he decided to vex the PTA of Sta. Remedios.

      In June 2002, he lodged a criminal complaint for “Unjust Vexation” against public school teacher Ronald Latonero and parent Zenaida Gotladera, ostensibly, for preventing him from delivering his Barangay fiesta message,  to Geming’s “great annoyance and humiliation”. Asked why he singled-out Latonero and Gotladera only, he said the other PTA officers apologized to him already. Whew! Apologize for what? For sparing themselves from his boring speech?

      Still not satisfied with the criminal case, Geming pursued Latonero with another administrative complaint before the Department of Education. He also availed of his influence over Bulan’s Sangguniang Bayan by humiliating Latonero to appear before the legislative body and explain why he (and the PTA officers) did not invite Geming to the barangay fiesta coronation night.

      Luckily for Latonero, the Department of Education dismissed Geming’s complaint against him. As to the Sangguniang Bayan? Well, what do you expect, it acted the way Geming wanted it, deliver the message to Latonero or anyone who messes up with him that “the strong arm” of Geming’s law will always fall on lowly mortals!

      But sweet Lady Justice smiled at Ronald Latonero this week.

      In a 16-page Decision, the Municipal Trial Court of Bulan acquitted Ronald Latonero and parent Zenaida Gotladera of the trumped-up charges brought by Geming De Castro against them.

      Judge Marie Louise Guan-Aragon (remember this equally “sweet-smiling” lady who brought TagaBulans great pride when she held the much-covetted post of National Federation of Kabataang Barangay Chairmen? Yes, she is the acting presiding judge of MTC-Bulan.) cleanly cut Geming’s malicious prosecution of public school teacher Latonero when she wrote:

       “This Court would like to believe that this case was brought about by the election fever (of 2004) that time when emotions were high and when political jealousy was prevalent”.

      Giving more credence to Latonero’s defense than to Geming’s childish bickerings, Judge Guan-Aragon cited in her Decision Latonero’s testimony:

      “Since joining the career service of the Department of Education, I did and has always done my best to be apolitical, or politically neutral.” 

     Latonero said, “If my intention was to favor or follow my father’s (Rudy Latonero) political affiliation, I would certainly have opposed the choice of Cesar Boy Gogola as fiesta guest. My father is affiliated with the Guyala group in Bulan, and not with the Gogolas then it would be politically correct if I invited instead Atty. Redentor Guyala. But I did not do that because politics to me is personal – it ends where my loyalty to my oath begins!”

      Hamak mo suon! A public school teacher thinks and speaks better than a municipal mayor. At least Ronald Latonero knows where his “loyalty to (his) party ends, where (his) loyalty to his country begins”.

           Just in case Geming does not know who said that famous quote, it was his high school alma mater’s namesake, the great Manuel Luis Quezon!

Tripartite DILG-COMELEC-SB Board Delays Resolution of SK Election Controversy

 By Adan Silangan

      In an attempt to delay resolution of a petition to deny due course to the candidacy of Annika Guelas in the recently concluded Sangguniang Kabataan elections, the Board of Election Supervisors (BES) which is mandated to supervise the said elections refused to act on the Motion for Reconsideration filed by Fernan Fruto (SK Chair of Barangay San Isidro who ran for SK Municipal Federation President against Guelas) saying the Board has been rendered functus officios after the lapse of three days following the SK Elections in December 6, 2007.

       The motion for reconsideration by Fruto asks the BES, composed of DILG municipal local government operations officer Rico Gaurino, COMELEC election officer Claire Salut and Sangguniang Bayan Secretary Augustus Leo Asuncion, to stop Annika Guelas from sitting as SK Federation President due to her misrepresentation that she is below 18 years old when she ran as SK Chair of her barangay in Barangay San Juan Bago, Bulan, Sorsogon. Fruto claimed the Board of Election Supervisors (BES) abused its authority when it ruled in favor of Guelas by giving more weight to Guelas’ photopied birth certificate in resolving the issue of her birth. Fruto appended to his Motion for Reconsideration a National Statistics Office (NSO) authenticated copy of Guelas’ certificate of live birth showing the latter to have been born on October 23, 1989 and not as she claimed to be on October 31, 1989.

      The Local Government Code of 1992 (Sec. 428, R. A. 7160) as amended provides that an elective sangguniang kabataan official must “at least be fifteen (15) years but not more than eighteen (18) years of age on the day of his election”.

      Annika Guelas misrepresented her true age in her certificate of candidacy filed with the COMELEC and claimed to be below eighteen years old. A day before the election on December 6, 2007, Fruto called the attention of the BES about Guelas’ misrepresentation, an act that, according to the Philippine Penal Code, constitute perjury a crime punishable by imprisonment and disqualification to hold public office.

       The BES, headed by Gaurino, ignored Fruto’s complaint and decided in favor of Guelas. The Board gave credence to Guelas’ photocopied certificate of live birth showing an altered date of birth. The day of Guelas’ birth was changed from October 23, 1989 to October 31, 1989, making it appear that Guelas is below 18 years old when the election was held in October 29, 2007.

      What Fruto can not understand is why did the Board rely on Guelas’ “photocopied” birth certificate?

       The office of the DILG and the Sangguniang Bayan is just a few steps away from the office of the Civil Registrar. A simple inquiry from that office would expeditiously resolve this issue by asking for the original copy of Guelas’ birth certificate and compare it from the photocopied certificate.

       But Gaurino et. al. chose not to find out the truth about the authenticity of Guelas’ age and would rather deny Fruto his right to occupy the seat of SK Federation President, a seat reserved only to the youth “less than 18 years of age on the day of his election”.

      Not content with their apparent partiality to Guelas, Gaurino, Salut and Asuncion, exacerbated Fruto’s plight by refusing to act on the latter’s motion for reconsideration on the erroneous but convenient contention that the Board’s authority “has ceased three days after the SK Elections on December 6, 2007” and that the BES has ceased as such on December 9, 2007.

      The triumvirate, obviously misapplied a provision in DILG’s memorandum circular governing the SK Elections which states that, “The BES shall decide all election controversies within three (3) days after the federation election” to mean as three days after the SK Elections the BES shall cease to exist as such. Taking their cue from this erroneous assumption Gaurino, Salut and Asuncion refused to perform their mandated function as “arbiter in all election controversies”. A simple appreciation of the DILG circular would show that the BES is mandated to resolve all election controversies within three days after the federation election, it did not say the BES’ life will last only three days after the SK federation election.

       Fruto was not surprised by the intentional delay the BES is causing his assumption to office. Guelas is an SK candidate with a known political backing by the De Castros who were reportedly moving “heaven and earth” to facilitate Guelas’ election, not only as SK Municipal Federation President, but as SK Provincial SK Federation President that will sit as ex officio member of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan.

      A day before Gaurino informed Fruto of the BES’ refusal to resolve his motion for reconsideration, Fruto’s grandafather, Fernando Briones, received a phone call from Bulan Mayor Helen De Castro asking Briones to convince his grandson to withdraw his disqualification case against Guelas. The lady mayor reportedly informed Briones, in strong words, their special interest in having Guelas installed as SK Federation President. She even claimed to Briones that Guelas has the backing of the New People’s Army in the province and that she would like to see to it that they (De Castro’s) don’t win the ire of the rebel group. Briones, however, was quick to add that the lady mayor was only bluffing, in her “desperate attempt to convince me (Briones) to withdraw the disqualification case against Guelas”.

    (With a report from Luisito Panelo)

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.