When hubris results in graft – Sunday Punch | WSN

By Ermin Garcia Jr.


THE filing of the graft cases vs. Mayor Brian Lim and eight other city officials did not come as a surprise to many. Given how the city government was run since the Lim administration (and the barkada) took over, I knew it would only be a matter of time before they start falling all over themselves.

It was plain hubris on Mayor Lim’s part to think that he could get away with any and all irregularities in the management of the city’s funds.

It helped that the city had a dedicated state auditor IV in Michael Basa, audit team leader, that called a spade a spade, a graft case for the attention of the Ombudsman!

Kudos to the group of fish vendors led by Marietta Barrientos. They did a great service to the people of Dagupan, particularly, for showing the way how to make city officials accountable for their work.

The only case that seems missing was how much the city government spent for the contracted garbage collection after rejecting the “Waste-to-Energy” contract that could have saved the city millions in costs of garbage collection and disposal.

The case may take at least two years to be adjudicated, long enough for city employees to learn that not even a mayor can protect them when they know fully well they violated rules of governance.

And given this precedent-setting case, I believe more cases will be filed soon after the 2021 audit report is submitted.

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“SOLID NORTH” CRACKED? There’s no doubt, VP Leni blasted through the gates of the touted Solid North enclave in Pangasinan last week despite efforts of BBM supporters to block the growing bandwagon in her direction. This time, the St. John Cathedral could not have possibly accommodated the throng that came to respond to her call for support.

It’s just as well that Archbishop Soc didn’t have to make his influence felt this time by making the cathedral again as the venue for the rally like he did in 2016.

But to me, the jampacked crowd at the CSI-Lucao compound manifested more than just a successful campaign rally for VP Leni. What struck me was the fervor of a completely confident people to gather without regard to the continued threat of COVID-19.  Everyone somehow felt safe expressing support without observing the physical distance protocol.

We’re surely seeing a true semblance to a return to the old normal, as a people.

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CALL OUT LTO’S GUADIZ.  The attempt of LTO regional chief Teofilo Guadiz III to sabotage the Leni-Kiko rally by invoking the franchise rule was much too obvious.

Had he been conscientiously enforcing that rule since day one of Alert No.1, his move would have been hailed as a fair and consistent enforcement. But he didn’t. In fact, he never asserted his authority when all other presidentiables came to town to stage rallies.

Threatening the drivers and owners of buses with franchises with penalties including possible revocation of franchises smacked of plain bullying to stop the transporting of supporters from the eastern and western towns.

There’s no denying that the rule he invoked is legal but what he cannot deny was his much too obvious agenda for the selective enforcement of that rule.

Mr. Guadiz should be called out by DOTr Sec. Arthur Tugade for using his office, personnel and resources for campaigning against one presidential candidate!

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MISSION FOR JAYCEEKENS. In a tete-a-tete with Dagupan Rotary past president Pepe Siapno at the club fellowship meeting last week, he reminded me about the fact that Leonor Rivera who was truly in love with Jose Rizal, got married in Dagupan with British engineer Charles Kipping Jr.  He said a photocopy of the marriage certificate is on display at the Dagupan Museum. How many have seen that?

His reminder actually begs more questions: What has the city government done to develop and promote the city museum? Has anyone been been tasked to do it or is this a mission that’s completely ignored because it does not offer opportunities for kotong?

Is there anyone soliciting and collecting articles, letters, old pictures of residents in social events, antique housewares used and preserved by past generations? Old official documents and engineering maps that led to the infrastructure development in the city? Old pictures of vendors in markets? Families picnicking by the Dagupan Blue Beach? Pictures of children in classrooms? Copies of old newspapers circa 1930s-50s? 

Perhaps, it’s a mission for the city’s Jayceekens, whose membership will always be current.

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NEUTRALIZING VOTE-BUYING. Beyond the need to level the playing field, it’s time for reckoning for our reelectionists and their challengers.

The election town supervisors can give their communities a big chance for better governance if they can organize with the help of local religious and civic sectors townhall meetings or public forum among mayoralty candidates.

The incumbents seeking reelection must be given a chance to regale voters with what they have delivered and to account for their failed promises. Ditto for challengers who need to update voters with their activities and engagements in their communities and demonstrate their capabilities to deliver on their campaign promises.

Specifically, there should be a focus on specific issues and programs during the pandemic, for education and youth, health care for senior citizens, protection of environment (garbage disposal), transparency and corruption, peace and order (drugs, robberies, curfew, etc.).

These are issues that national candidates can only go as far as defining policies and only local candidates can amplify how these can be implemented under their stewardship.

And these can be achieved in public debates and forums, the antidote to vote-buying.

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WHO WILL FILE CASES? Monitoring campaign activities of local candidates is far easier than reporting national candidates’ campaign activities. Hence, there is no reason for our local Comelec supervisors to turn a blind eye to continued rampant violation of poster rules because it is easily enforceable if they care to!

Comelec supervisors can easily make local candidates accountable and penalize them for continued violation of poster rules.

Illegal postering is about nailing posters on trees or hanging posters on trees and electric posts and in public areas outside the designated common poster areas in barangays. Note: It’s not illegal to have posters inside private properties but to have oversized posters and billboards should still deemed illegal.

Let’s see who among the election supervisors in the province would dare do what’s right and file cases against the candidates for violation of the rule on posters.

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My deepest condolences to the family of the Fernandez matriarch, Doña Remedios Tan Vda de Fernandez, mother to former Mayor Belen and her eight siblings. She was the epitome of a humble woman, fully dedicated to the teachings of the Catholic Church while a full time mother and a businesswoman.

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