More good than bad news
By Ermin Garcia Jr.
I DON’T blame Mayor Benjie Lim for endlessly trumpeting the dismissal of the administrative case filed against him. He’s grasping at straws to convince people that he is Mr. Clean. Tsk-tsk.
Indeed, the decision was a setback, but extremely minor, in the people’s march to Tuwid na Daan. Based on the Aguinaldo doctrine, the administrative complaint vs. Mr. Lim in connection with the tainted purchase of the 30-hectare lot in Brgy Awai in 2002 had to be dismissed by Malacanang. Not so bad because the dismissal was based merely on a jurisprudence established by the Supreme Court. It had nothing to do with the merits of the complaint for criminal liability.
Translation: Mr. Lim will not be suspended simply on account of the land deal that cost the city P16-M because he was elected in spite of it. Hmmm. The jurisprudence states that any perceived or reported misdemeanor of a reelected official is deemed condoned and, therefore, cannot be the basis for a suspension of a public official. Fine. (However, as Fire Player Gonz Duque pointed out, Mr. Lim was not reelected since he won his third term with a gap between his 2nd and 3rd term. Mayor Al Fernandez was mayor in 2007).
The office of the Ombudsman in Cebu City once expressed dismay over this jurisprudence since voters are normally not familiar with the implications of legal cases when they go to the polls. The principle of accountability is diminished by it.
But here’s the good news. As former Vice Mayor Teddy Manaois (and Manny Roy, Mr. Lim’s latest worst nightmare), correctly pointed out, the criminal liability of Mr. Lim and cohorts in the purchase of the land remain, subject to the determination of the Ombudsman.
Another good news. Based on that jurisprudence, Mr. Lim is now clearly liable for administrative sanction on the basis of the complaint filed by Mr. Angeles in the case of the irregular release of calamity funds in 2010 without the required declaration of a state of calamity by the city council! The complained act happened during his incumbency, not after his “reelection.”
But here’s a potential bad news. If Mr. Lim gets reelected in May, he cannot be suspended for the complained anomalies he committed from 2010-2013. But the good news is, he can still be sent to jail if found to have violated the country’s anti-graft and corruption law.
Another good news. The Ombudsman can also find Mr. Lim criminally liable if the bidding he conducted for the sale of the MC Adore property is determined to be irregular. But another case must be filed.
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CRIMINAL LIABILITY. I hate to rain on Mr. Lim’s parade that started last week because Mr. Lim also deserves a fun day amid all his controversial “value-engineering” activities, but it must be told that he definitely is not off the hook…and he knows it!
Take the case of Cebu Gov. Gwen Garcia and some board members in the tainted purchase of Balili Island in 2008. While Gov. Garcia et al were likewise spared suspension over the case, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales still recently decided that she, former mayor and now Lapu-Lapu City Rep. Arturo Radaza, and former Mandaue City mayor and now Provincial Board (PB) Member Thadeo Ouano, are guilty of grave misconduct relative to the island’s purchase.
Criminal charges were filed against Garcia for violating Section 3(g) R.A. No. 3019 and for technical malversation punishable under Article 220 of the Revised Penal Code. The Ombudsman also found probable cause to indict Garcia, Bolo, Sususco, Salubre, Pelayre, Gingoyon, and private respondents Romeo Balili and Amparo Balili for violating Sec. 3(e) of RA 3019.
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NO PROOF OF DOCUMENTS. On another note, I found the praise release from the city hall about the Malacanang’s verdict quite amusing as it was deceptive.
Mr. Lim’s PR went at great lengths justifying the plan to construct the sanitary landfill today to give the impression that what he wants was faultless. Duh? Nobody is saying the landfill is a bad idea! It was and still is a good idea but the problem is not in the vision or the plan. The problem lies in the fact that Mr. Lim lied about the status of the land, and still lies to this day. (He also made the city pay his business associate P16-M for a P7-M property).
The truth is the city already lost its right to the land yet Mr. Lim talks about a Transfer Certificate of Title in the city’s possession. So show the people the certificate, Mr. Lim! Back it up with a document from the DAR Arbitration Board that the tenants are no longer the rightful owners of the land.
Former Mayor Al Fernandez attempted to recover the property but failed because DARAB maintained it had already decided the case in favor of the tenants after Mr. Lim defaulted in asserting ownership over the land during his incumbency. So unless Mr. Lim can show otherwise, he is, in fact, negotiating with the tenants as owners of the land NOT because of the latter’s refusal to cooperate and endorse the landfill project as he claims.
So if Mr. Lim can show the documents that prove us wrong, I urge him to start the construction and I am certain no Dagupeño will have second thoughts supporting it. As things stand today, he not only keeps the city in the dark but also refuses to make Mr. Cuña return the P16-M paid to him. (The rumor is Mr. Cuña didn’t keep the money, somebody did).
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NO CONTEMPT? Speaking of the tainted sale of MC Adore, we have yet to hear Judge Servin Samadan decide on the contempt charge filed against Mr. Lim who proceeded with the bidding before the court could decide on the petition for preliminary injunction filed by Ryan Ravanzo.
Doesn’t the judge think that a contempt of the court is a direct assault on the judiciary? Given the reported inaction of the court, I can’t blame many for thinking that the contempt charge is being swept under the rug and the speculations are far from flattering, to say the least.
Many are hoping that Judge Samadan will soon do what Judge Emma Torio failed to do to protect the interests of the city.
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THEIR WORST, MY BEST. Well-meaning friends in the local media told us how four colleagues in the pocket of Mr. Lim played tag team over the week, maligning me over the airlanes for exposing the return of the fish pens. Still another accused labeled me as being unprofessional for not publishing “praise releases” from the city hall.
Specifically, I was told a comic duo that clutter the airwaves daily adamantly denied the existence of the fish pens and went to say that I couldn’t possibly know since I am not a resident in the city. Little did they realize that they appeared more pathetic because they make the rounds in the city everyday and yet they see nothing. Then another team accused The PUNCH of being biased for being the only newspaper that didn’t publish Mr. Lim’s version of the series of the successful anti-drug raids and arrests in the city. Did they actually expect The PUNCH to be like them, to deceive the public deliberately?
Well, here’s what I have to say to these hopeless whining lapdogs who refuse to see the truth about their Mad Dog Whisperer and about themselves. First of all, people already know who and what they are. Nothing else matters to them but the pittance dangled to their faces. So go ahead, continue to do your worst, I will just have to do my best.
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KABALEYAN. It was a pleasure meeting Art and Chona Barberan, longtime PUNCH Kabaleyan Club members from Los Angeles, in Dagupan City last week! I am humbled by his account that The PUNCH is the main source of news by Pangasinenses in the US. Salamat ya balbaleg!