Sula: Trouble in the Promised Land


IN THE land flowing with milk and honey, Joshua has a beef with Moses. According to the book of Ram Mercado, a faithful chronicler of his time and place, "Joshua" is Alex Cauguiran while " Moses" is Mayor Ed Pamintuan.

Both, he wrote with the usual honesty and earnestness, are epic leaders who led the Angelenos in an exodus-like experience after the Mt. Pinatubo calamity in the 90s.

More than a generation after, Joshua is complaining. Moses is allegedly walking back on an earlier principle, and Joshua is not happy about it, to say the least.

The problem is not about the lack of water, as when Moses had to struck a rock not once but twice, to produce water, which eventually cost him the Promised Land. But there is warning from Abong Tayag, a prominent voice in the wilderness of Angeles City's modern day politics, water shortage will be a painful reality in 2 to 3 years, unless something is done NOW.

Nor is manna in short supply. There is plenty to go around, although the storehouse may not be filled all the way to the rafters. Based on the latest report by the Commission on Audit, the city LGU had a balance of something like P1.2 billion in ending balance in 2017. Not bad, on the face of it. But even that apparent good financial management was not enough to earn the city a seal in good governance.

The front and center of the wedge issue between Cauguiran and Pamintuan is the impending loan Pamintuan and company has approved to get from the Land Bank of the Philippines in the amount of, more or less, P1.2 billion. It’s payable in 15 years, at around P80 million a year, minus interest. The way it’s perceived, It's like a hand-in-glove kind of modus vivendi, especially with Vice-Mayor Bryan Nepomuceno as Pamintuan's endorsed mayoralty bet in 2019 versus his old pal and chief political strategist and adviser.

Probably, Pamintuan's decision to drop Cauguiran in favor of Nepomuceno is what has riled him up. Wounding, then, rubbing salt on it.

Objectively, though, Cauguiran is making his case by pointing out three questionable marks of poor judgment about the loan. For one, it's not essential. Why build a sports complex when you can use one for free or rent in nearby Clark or adjacent area? For another, it's not a necessity. It's much better to improve the public hospital or provide better health care for Angelenos.

Thirdly, what happened to Pamintuan's earlier position on a loan for a similar project with which he excoriated Blueboy Nepomuceno and in the process dethroned him as mayor? Cauguiran's argument is clear: what was wrong then is wrong now, or wrong anytime, for that matter.

To top it all, Cauguiran has sliced and diced the ordinance that legalized the loan proposal and found it wanting: no public hearing. Void ab initio? Reminder: Pamintuan and Nepumoceno are both lawyers.

In a nutshell, Cauguiran, the loyal disciple, is doubting the moral premise of his erstwhile master/mentor.

At this time of the season, this issue resonates with the immortal, familiar playbook of cynics, skeptics and critics that many politicians, maybe most, if not all, are in the public service or wanting to for the wrong reason.

There are no half-hearted victors in politics, no one would just settle for a moral victory. There are no moral absolutes in politics, anyway. It's not at all surprising that between Joshua and Moses, smiling has turned to souring. There's a place that they probably would not want to go: sliming. But all bets are off. Joshua is still holding his punches.


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