Christmas in April-May at the Capitol

By May 14, 2023Punchline

By Ermin Garcia Jr.


ACTING-Gov. Mark Lambino was his candid self, explaining the surprise absence of the 11 board members, provincial administrator and provincial assessor and other key provincial officials whose whereabouts were unknown initially until they were tracked in USA, thanks to social media.

Mr. Lambino said the travel of the board members was official with permission from the DILG.  But to be permitted official travel, the reason must be relevant to their duties, and Mr. Lambino was mum about this. Could attending the induction program of the United Pangasinanes Association in San Francisco City be considered a reason for official trip?

And if the board members travel to attend the induction program was considered “official business”, it meant their travel expenses were borne by the provincial government. Hmmm.  So how much did the provincial government pay for their “official” leisure and pleasure travel?

To further justify the “official leave and travel”, Mr. Lambino said the provincial board conducted two virtual sessions since most everyone was out of town. (But there were no published agenda during those periods. Try again, Mr. Lambino). Virtual session? Try happy “chats” on Messenger or Zoom or Viber, toasting their unexpected “official travel”. All expenses paid for by taxpayers of Pangasinan?  Or by someone else?

Pray tell, Mr. Virgilio Sison, DILG provincial chief! Totoo ba ang story?

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SANTA CLAUSE AT THE CAPITOL. But let’s give Mr. Lambino the benefit of the doubt by saying plainly that he was telling the province only half of the truth, particularly about the group’s travel expenses.

I surmise that the untold truth is: The provincial government really did not spend a centavo for the honorable board members’ travel. It was only billed as “official travel” to cover-up the sudden “free travel” sponsored by an interested party in a big-ticket project!  

The unintended “slip” became apparent when the confident Mr. Lambino impressed the media with the news that San Miguel Corporation was the original proponent and bidder for the Pangasinan Link Expressway that submitted its proposal last March!

What he didn’t say, of course, was SMC is already the project winner of the Binalonan-to-Lingayen expressway even before the Joint Ventures Selection Committee (JVSC) that Guv Guico formed, could be expected to perform its mandated task to evaluate “proposals” after the 120-day Swiss Challenge!  Wrong? Wait for the 120-day challenge to end.

Then, the unmistakable giveaway! Guv Guico and First Lady Maan quickly left for the USA also on “official leave and travel” soon as the board members, provincial administrator, assessor and other department heads arrived from their “business” and pleasure trips. “Ano… board members and department heads lang siniswerte?”

Since all the travel expenses of the province’s key officials are definitely not in the year’s annual budget, who could be the Santa Claus that landed on the capitol grounds that declared Christmas in April? In exchange for what??

I surmise the US travel extravaganza was only the icing on the cake.

In this era, even Santa will tell you, nothing comes free.  Business is business. There’s the half-truth!

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NO EMPATHY FROM SUREME COURT. I’ve just been made to experience a situation in the judicial system: It’s easy to defend one’s self and be acquitted in a libel case than to withdraw the cash bond one filed as required by law.

The Supreme Court wants local regional trial courts to require respondents who filed cash bonds to produce original documents and 5 “certified true copies of court orders” to prove that their cash bonds should be released to them!

The SC court’s administrative rules demonstrate a lack of empathy towards respondents who manifest their faith in the justice system by filing cash bonds instead of availing of bail bonds.

How can 5 “certified true copies”, and other required notarization of documents possibly help reinforce the legitimate claim of a respondents’ whose identities are easily verified, for the release of their cash bond?  One even wonders if the offices to whom the “certified true copies” are distributed even care to read these documents that are routinely implemented routed to their “inboxes”?

If there’s one government office that needs to transition urgently to e-governance in this digital age, that should be the judiciary department. The Integrated Bar of the Philippines can do the country a great service if it can prompt the early transition of the judiciary.

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TIMELINE FOR MBTF LEGACY. It’s been more than seven months since the Belen Fernandez administration exposed the irregularities and anomalies in the implementation of the scholarship fund by the Lim administration. No case has been filed to this day.

It’s been more than 6 months since the Belen Fernandez administration exposed the anomalous transactions involving purchase of CCTVS, undelivered motorboats, abandoned reconstruction of the Malimgas Market, deleted files at the POSO and One-Stop-Shop offices. Results of the investigations have not been released.

It’s been more than six months when the Belen Fernandez administration said it targets more than 1,460 illegal fish pens and cages in the city.  Instead, more illegal fish pens visibly sprouted around Barangay Calmay and tributaries around Barangays Pantal, Pugaro and Salapingao.  

Actions on these are the benchmarks for Mayor Belen’s worthy legacy.  I hope our monthly updates on these will show results. But ‘No news” from her CIO is ‘Bad news’.

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