METROPOLITAN Manila Development Authority (MMDA) Chairman Francis Tolentino cried foul over the plunder charges filed against him before the Office of the Ombudsman.

Tolentino said he could not help but think that the charges against him were harassment filed by his political rivals in Tagaytay, Cavite where he served as mayor from 1994 to 2004.

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“Lahat ito ay pulitika kasi noong ako ay nanunungkulan wala akong kaso, ngayon lang ako nagkakaso ngayong nasa MMDA na ako,” Tolentino said in a phone interview, adding that he will face the charges squarely.

Asked if the charges could also be related to his crackdown on the mulcting activities of MMDA traffic enforcers and officials on bus companies, Tolentino refused to answer but said it would not deter him from pursuing his plans at the agency.

“Andiyan na yan. May mga nasimulan na ako sa MMDA at di ako nagsisisi at babala ko sa loob at labas ng MMDA, kung talagang gustong siraan ako ay magkakaharap harap kami.”

Last week, Tolentino bared the payment of monthly and weekly “payola” by several bus firms and FX terminals to traffic enforcers.

On Monday, he ordered the relief of MMDA Traffic and Transport Management Office (TTMO) Executive Director Angelito Vergel De Dios pending the result of an investigation into whether he is into the “payola” racket.

The MMDA chief is charged for allegedly amassing some P500 million in ill-gotten wealth in violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act and the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees.

The case was filed by former Tagaytay vice mayoralty candidate Pastor Ronald Tan who alleged that when Tolentino became mayor in 1994, the only recorded real estate belonging to him and his family was their ancestral home located in the city’s Barangay Tolentino West.

Today, the complainant said the list of the family’s lands in Tagaytay included the Cockpit Arena, Frablyn Towers, Star Ridge Plaza, Windy Ridge Hotel, Airborne Building, New Orleans Hotel, and Overlook Inn.

Tan also accuses the MMDA chief and his brother, current Tagaytay mayor Abraham Tolentino of misrepresenting the real financial condition of the city, citing a Commission on Audit’s (COA) official 2006 assessment which states that the “Cash in Vault” of P130 million as claimed by the city government “is not backed up by hard currency”.

Meanwhile, Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda said the President felt that the cases against the new MMDA chair were harassment.

“The President was aware of the graft cases filed before the ombudsman and let it be stated lang na during the entire term of Francis Tolentino as MMDA general manager, walang kaso nasampa sa Sandiganbayan,” he said.(AH/JMR/Sunnex)