Wrong battle

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Saturday, July 12, 2014


LAPU-LAPU City Mayor Paz Radaza is crusading to transfer the 40-foot brass statue of Datu Lapu-Lapu from Rizal Park in Manila to barangay Punta Engaño in Cebu. She plans set it up on a two-hectare plot of reclaimed land. “Just like the Statute of Liberty in New York.”

Rep. Raul del Mar, who initiated the move to install the statue in 2004, bucked the plan. The Luneta site gave “honor to Lapu-Lapu as a hero, not just of Cebu, but of the whole country.”

Is the lady waging the wrong battle at the wrong time?

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Radaza bogged down last week in the Sandiganbayan on misuse by former Cebu congresswoman Clavel Asas-Martinez, and seven others of P15 million in pork barrel funds in 2002.

Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales upheld the indictment of Martinez, her son Celestino Martinez III and Radaza. They were slapped with two counts of malversation of public funds.

Asas-Martinez allocated the P15 million from the Priority Development Assistance Fund for the Girl Scouts anti-drug campaign. It was released May 13, 2002 in two tranches of P7.5 million each--not to GSP--but to Celestino Martinez. There was no memorandum of agreement between the Bogo Municipal Government and GSP.

The money turned up on Sept. 22 in 2003 in Asas-Martinez’s personal account number 9663-0063-01 at the Bank of the Philippine Islands in Pasay City.

Audits found the transaction did not show up in GSP’s account. "Allotment and obligation slips from Bogo were not supported by programs of works or documents showing related activities of the GSP."

“(These) gave Martinez unwarranted benefits, consenting and allowing her to take full control of the funds, thereafter misappropriating it,” the ombudsman said. By happenstance, Radaza was treasurer of the GSP Cebu Council.

Was it happenstance, too, that in January 2009 Bangko Sentral closed down the bankrupt Rural Bank of Subangdaku in Lapu-Lapu City, affecting more than 11,000 depositors. It was shoved into Philippine Deposit Insurance Corporation's protective receivership.

Officials of the shuttered bank created, then approved 6,051 fictitious loans worth P2.6 billion from 2004 to 2008, wrote Butch del Castillo in Businessmirror (19 May 2014). Some 5,740 of the bogus loans had no credit information. And 581 did not have supporting documents.

In that four year span, RBSI concocted, then approved “six fictitious loans a day with an aggregate loan value of P2.6 billion. This could not have happened if those who ran the bank did not enjoy considerable political clout..."

And who is Businessmirror talking about?

The bank was run by Paz Radaza as president. She was also a member of its credit committee. Joseph and Peter Gaisano, whose family, owns the White Gold supermarket chain, controlled the bank.

On January 13 this year, PDIC filed with the Justice Department a criminal complaint accusing Radaza and Julius Eullaran, former loan officer, of conducting the bank’s business “in an unsafe and unsound manner.”

This case is different from three civil cases lodged by the BSP with the DOJ against the involved persons. These are stuck in the DOJ. And simple and bailable criminal cases have been filed.

Radaza’s battle for Lapu-Lapu’s statute reminds of Gen. Omar Bradley's 1951 warning before the US Congress on plans to expand the conflict in North Korea into China. That’d be "the wrong war, at the wrong place, at the wrong time, and with the wrong enemy."

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on July 13, 2014.

Opinion

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