And then there was Mighty 5
By Ermin Garcia Jr.
IT’S heartening to note that two members of the Judas 5 are beginning to come around for the city. Councilors Karlos Reyna and Alvin Coquia turned in their onor-onor badges when the opportunity arose for them to redeem their lost family honor from that unspeakable “fast-buck” adventure with Mayor Benjie Lim over the sale of MC Adore and a Calasiao land.
That opportunity came last week when they joined the ragtag remnants of the Mighty 8 (Councilors Maybelyn Fernandez, Alfie Fernandez and Jigs Seen) in telling off the mayor’s son, Onor-onor Brian, literally to go jump in the fishpond (there’s no lake in the city, is there?) in last week’s regular session.
When Mr. Brian tried to block the question-and-answer session with the DAR official and the Dagupan police intelligence officer, it was obvious he had expected the two Lim acquisitions (or so he thought) to echo his thoughts, only to realize they were Judases no more. Reyna and Coquia decided to vote for the city this time after Councilor Alfie told off Onor-onor Brian.
So far so good. From a pathetic 3 Musketeers, the group has again grown to a Mighty 5! Whether the Mighty 8 will again shine is now up to Onor-onors Chito Samson, Jess Canto and Dada Manaois-Reyna to prove themselves worthy again of the Dagupeños trust. Will they bother to redeem themselves? Let’s see.
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SHARED INTERESTS. It should be clear to all and sundry today that Mayor Benjie Lim, his son Brian and fellow Onor-onors Red Erfe-Mejia, Chester Gonzales and Guillermo Vallejos have a very different take of the administration’s slogan “Our city. Our Shared Responsibility.”
The “shared responsibility” they speak of actually points to “shared interests, to hell with city’s interests.” They were a team in manipulating the purchase of overpriced items for a feeding program for indigent kids, in distributing calamity funds to favored kapitans without the city council’s official declaration of a s state of calamity, in refusing to account for funds collected and solicited for the city fiesta and Bangus Festival, in constructing the Daongan ed Dawel without the benefit of a public bidding, in refusing to account for lost ownership of the 30-hectare lot in San Jacinto, and in refusing to act vs. hataw , jueteng, drop-ball and other illegal gambling in the city, etc.
And, the young Lim (with Messrs. Erfe-Mejia, and Gonzales in tow) thought nothing of stopping any discussion on the Barangay Awai and the state of peace and order in the city council.
They wanted the discussions stopped because they evidently feared that some of their allies would be incriminated in the process. Onor-onor Brian even had the temerity to invoke the constitution and the need to protect the rights of their cronies even before any discussion could be had! Feeling guilty kaya? In so doing, the young Lim, a frustrated wannabe lawyer, only succeeded in exposing his own ignorance about the constitution. If he had studied his assignments well, he would have known that our constitution seeks to protect and promote the good and the legitimate, to stop and punish the bad and the criminal. Where was he when Constitution 101 taught this?
So pray tell, Onor-onor Lim et all, who do you wish to be protected? Better still, what criminal activities should the police not talk about? What shouldn’t the public know about the Awai scam?
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WHERE’S CUNA? Now that DAR’s Atty. Raul Laluan has spoken on the Brgy. Awai land issue, his presentation begs more questions than answers. The momentum for the search for truth has been created so the work of the city council has just begun. Persons who were involved in the sale and purchase o the land in San Jacinto should be invited to tell their own stories.
If Vice Mayor Belen and the Mighty 5 suddenly cannot see beyond this, then they cannot blame Dagupeños for suspecting that they had been bought for another P1.5 M! For starters, they should invite the vital missing link in the Awai scam to the city council posthaste, namely Mr. Jose Mariano Cuña!
What was Mr. Cuña to Mayor Lim at the time, and today? How did he gain such an incredible foresight to determine what land to buy for a quick turnaround sale to Dagupan City after 4 months? How long has he been involved in property trading to deserve a sale that many realtors can only dream of?
And here’s the bottom line for Mr. Cuña. While he may feel secure with the thought that his friend Mayor Lim would not seek the return of the city’s P16 M, it would be best for him to volunteer the return of the city’s money. After all, he sold the land to the city knowing fully well that the land was already in the middle of a CARP litigation involving the farm’s tenants, a status that has prevented the city from claiming the land as its own.
As I peruse copies of the same documents that will be forwarded to the ombudsman (by angry concerned citizens) to support the anonymous complaint already filed with the ombudsman, I am certain Mr. Cuña will have a lot of explaining to do for his participation in the perceived conspiracy to defraud the city government.
The BIR alone would be interested to hear from him why he and Estrella Sangalang (the original owner) only declared a P70,000 sale for the 30-hectare land, and yet executed another deed of sale indicating that he paid Sangalang P7 M for the property. A case of tax evasion? Tsk-tsk. Then the ombudsman would love to hear him explain if, indeed, the tax declaration he submitted stating the property’s market value at only P387,330 was done deliberately to mislead the government. After all, he signed the deed of sale between him and the city that pegged the selling price at a whopping P16 M! No matter how one looks at it, there is a prima facie evidence to point to a criminal conspiracy.
If he cannot come clean notwithstanding the public documents in government’s hands, it could mean a jail sentence for him if found guilty. (But if it’s any consolation to him, when that happens, he will be in good company).
So for Mr. Cuña’s sake, I strongly suggest he seriously considers sparing himself and Mayor Lim the aggravation and the anxiety to explain why they should not be jailed in spite of what the public records show. Just return the city’s money. Note: PNoy is still very much in his anti-corruption mode!
Yes, Mr. Cuña, just return the city’s money before the wheels of justice crush you underneath it. And to Onor-onor Lim: the more you try to protect and shield Mr. Cuña from the Awai scandal, the more guilty he appears. So, do him and your father a favor, say no more.
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WEAK POLICE? Dagupan cop chief Romeo Caramat conveniently chose to stay away from the city council’s session last Monday and instead merely sent his intelligence officer to face the councilors. He thought by doing so, he would not be made to account for the series of killings, drug-dealings happening right under his very nose.
By skipping the discussion, he has made Dagupeños even more suspicious of who the police are protecting. The antic of Onor-onor Lim made this obvious when he tried to stop Senior Inspector Junmar Gonzales from answering probing questions from his colleagues who want to know who are behind the hataw, drop-ball and jueteng operations in the city and why the notorious drug dealers and their protectors in the barangays in the city remain untouchable.
Whether he likes it or not, Mr. Caramat is already being suspected of benefitting from his station’s weak enforcement of the law. This impression may be unfair to him but how can he prove his detractors wrong if he refuses to explain anything?
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TEXT-TEXT. Here’s another unexpurgated text from a reader: Is Dagupan exempted from good morals? We teach our children to be honest and not steal, yet our own Mayor Lim has confused us about Awai. If AWAI is indeed in the possession of the city, please show the Title so the children will see the Truth. The youth in Dagupan read the news too. Di na sila maniniwalasa pangaral kung ang Mayor ng Dagupan mismo ay nagsisinungaling at pinagdududahan na magnanakaw pagdating sa 16million Awai Lot. Please clear your name Mayor Lim for the sake of the youth. Otherwise pag may ginawa silang pag sisinungaling at pagnanakaw baka sagutin kami, Bakit si Mayor Lim ay OK lang gawin yung AWAI? Our City, we have a responsibility to the Youth. May we request City Assessor Alan Dale Zarate or Eduardo Magno of the GSO to be interviewed regarding Awai if the Mayor wishes to be cleared of the so-called Awai Scam?
I have nothing to add. The mayor’s unexpurgated response is welcome in this column as well. anytime!