Saturday, September 23, 2006

‘Pryce takes care of Moreno’s bills’

MISAMIS Oriental Gov. Oscar Moreno has virtually turned Pryce Plaza Hotel into a home away from home and the hotel’s sister company has long been footing the bill, the governor’s accusers alleged on Wednesday.

"He (Moreno) has a very extravagant lifestyle and this does not speak well of his call for austerity measures in the provincial government,’’ said Ronnie Waniwan, one of the radio blocktimers who filed two complaints for graft against Moreno before the ombudsman.

Eddie Dangcal, another Moreno accuser, said he and Waniwan can support their claims with documents.

Waniwan said the documents would show that Moreno has been receiving favors from Pryce Gases, a sister company of the city’s premier hotel. The firm operates a plant in Barangay Baliwagan, Balingasag, Moreno’s hometown.

He said documents he and Dangcal have show that Moreno’s hotel bills reached some P200 thousand and that Pryce Gases was supposed to shoulder it.

Waniwan said he and Dangcal scrutinized the documents, and discovered that Moreno has been frequenting if not, staying in the hotel for quite some time already.

‘‘He usually stays at Room 202," said Waniwan, citing the alleged documents he and Dangcal unearthed.

Moreno’s press officer Maricel Casiño-Rivera said the capitol has yet to release an official statement.

‘‘It’s not clear what documents they (Waniwan and Dangcal) are referring to. Unless they make it clear, it would be difficult for us to comment,’’ said Rivera in a phone interview.

Rivera said Moreno has not discussed the matter with her.

‘‘Personally, I don’t know anything about it so it’s really hard to comment,’’ said Rivera.

Rivera however said she was certain that neither Pryce Gases nor any of its sister companies was doing business in the capitol and therefore, no conflicts of interest.

No one from Pryce Plaza Hotel agreed to be interviewed by this paper yesterday.

Waniwan said Moreno should explain this in public.

‘‘Even if he (Moreno) says that he is paying for it from his own pocket, still it doesn’t look good because he is a public official who should have a simple lifestyle,’’ said Waniwan.

He said he and Dangcal were studying the possibility of pressing another charge against Moreno based on the documents they recently discovered.

Mindanao Gold Star Daily

Friday, September 22, 2006

JACnet's back online


THE Journalists Against Corruption Network (Jacnet) website is back online! The URL is featuring Allan Mediante's "Lord of the Flies", the first ever investigative story approved by the JACNet Editorial Board for publication way back in 2004.

Jacnet was originally conceived to be the "virtual newspaper" for investigative stories of the Journalists Against Corruption Network (Jacnet). The original site received financial and technical assistance from the Phil. Australian Governance Facility (PAGF) project but failed to sustain itself after it was hit with a couple of shutdowns by local Internet Service Providers (ISPs) hosting the site. As a result, all the materials collated at both sites were lost and the project languished in the doldrums.

Early this year, the new Board of Directors took another look at the project and appointed yours truly to head the committee to see if the project could be resuscitated. With materials provided by past president Herbie Gomez, the remaining hard copy of the Jacnet materials were painstakingly encoded back into the computer by my kids Miguel and Leon at our residence during their free time.

Next, I recruited newly installed director Ben Balce to remake the Jacnet site which was originally designed and constructed by COPC member Ruel Pelone. The site is still under construction and more materials are lined up for inclusion.

With the new site up and running, the Board will consider in its next meeting to reorganize the Jacnet editorial board. Ben and I have already significed to COPC Pres. Uriel Quilinguing and the Board of Directors our willingness to continue serving as the Board representatives in the Jacnet Editorial Board, at the same time acting as its Online Management Team.

The PAGF project report recognizes the efforts of Ruel as the the web developer and first administrator of the Jacnet website. It says "He was particularly effective, not only in constructing the website, but working closely with the website subcommittee of Jacnet. He was open to suggestions and at the same time maintained the design and structural integrity of the site.

One pleasing side-effect of the training and Mr. Pelone's management of the process is that a number of the training participants have started to develop their own sites. He was happy to support them in this."

Jacnet also previously extended an invitation to Sangga Kagayanon to host the SG website on the Jacnet website until they are able to go 'independent'. The invitation was accepted and the project funded the additional costs for developing the site and for the additional domain name . This was done to preserve the independence of the organization's identity. The resuscitation of the Sangga website will also be taken up during our next board meeting to complete the original foundation for Jacnet.

Good governance principles were used as a guide in all the considerations that led to the formation, structure and rules for JACnet. The key considerations in organizing the Editorial Board were to ensure an editorially mature and legally aware Board to guide JACnet; ensure quality stories are produced without putting the COPC at unreasonable risk of legal action, and at the same time, to ensure that JACnet is editorially free from any editorial or other inappropriate pressures from the COPC Board or from outside.

There is a separation of powers between the COPC Board of Directors and the Jacnet Editorial Board. Legal guidelines and protocols are in the process of being drafted by the Project lawyers to minimize the possible legal risks top the COPC as well as the Editorial Board and the contributing journalists.

The COPC Board of Directors has been mandated to automatically set aside a budget for Jacnet at the start of their office, even if the new Jacnet Editorial Board members have not been elected yet.

The Editorial Board will also administer the budget to take care of the Website.
Income generating activities will be pursued by COPC to sustain the grants for investigating stories. This will be done through the Business and Marketing Plan.
Jacnet is governed by a seven-member Editorial Board. The roles of the Editorial Board have been defined and documented with the assistance of the legal advisors. This was deemed necessary in the light of the Jacnet commitment to fund and encourage publication of investigative stories, especially against corruption, on their own website.
The Editorial Board members take an oath of commitment to uphold the COPC Code of Ethics. It reviews and approves story proposals based on set criteria. The Board meets as the need arises – regular meetings, review and approval of story proposals, monitoring the progress of an investigative story, and review and approval of stories for publishing.
Board members are bound by oath to keep any information gained from the investigative stories confidential until Jacnet approves the stories for release. The members take their oath of commitment before the COPC Board of Directors.
The Editorial Board appoints the members of the Online Management Team for the Jacnet website. As of the moment, Director Ben Balce and myself are also serving in the capacity.
The Editorial Board is accountable to the COPC General Assembly. Its members are appointed by the COPC Board of Directors each year, three months after the COPC' elections.
The Editorial Board appointments will be based on the following criteria:
Four senior journalists – three to represent each of the print, radio and television media, one to be a senior journalist either from print, radio and television;
Two COPC Directors to be the COPC Board's representatives in the Jacnet Editorial Board;
A lawyer who may or may not be a COPC member, and
The COPC President may sit in the Jacnet Editorial Board but shall have no voting powers
Criteria for membership
PRINT JOURNALIST – Regular journalist of a newspaper, whether employed or not, as long as he/she is a regular columnist/ contributor; at least five (5) years experience in print media; must be a member of the COPC.
RADIO JOURNALIST –Regular radio broadcaster, whether news editor, reporter or commentator; with at least five (5) years experience in broadcast media; must be a member of the COPC.
TV JOURNALIST –Regular TV broadcaster, whether news editor, reporter or newscaster; with at least five (5) years experience in broadcast media; must be a member of the COPC.
TWO (2) REPRESENTATIVES OF THE COPC BOARD OF DIRECTORS –Appointed by the COPC President or the Board of Directors.
LAWYER –Must have an understanding and knowledge of media and journalism and its dynamics; does not necessarily have an experience in media practice; may or may not be a COPC member.
JOURNALIST –May be from the print, radio or TV industry; with at least five (5) years experience in broadcast media; must be a member of the COPC.
COPC PRESIDENT –Must be the elected incumbent President. The Press Club President is an immediate member of the Editorial Board. The President is an ex-officio and will not exercise any voting powers in the Editorial Board.

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Enteria body trashes anti-Emano motion

THE city council’s committee on laws and rules on Wednesday rejected opposition Councilor Zaldy Ocon’s proposal to declare Mayor Vicente Emano persona non grata.

Ocon’s proposal was thrown out despite the documents he brought with him to support the proposal before the committee chaired by Emano ally Councilor Mary-anne Enteria. The committee’s members include councilors Edgardo Cabanlas, Reynaldo Advincula and Jerico Goldmar Ebabacol, all closely identified with the mayor.

The committee declared the proposed resolution to be baseless.

The rejection would mean the proposal would not be endorsed by the committee for discussion in the plenary.

Cabanlas said the proposed resolution was unfair to Emano.

It was impossible because Emano is the city’s chief executive. "We can’t declare him (Emano) persona non grata because he has the immunity as ambassador of this city," Cabanlas said.

"How can we declare the chief executive persona non grata?" Enteria said.

Advincula said Ocon’s proposal was "unfair" to Cagayanons who voted to make Emano their mayor.

Ocon lashed at the committee, saying its members only showed the extent by which they were willing to defend Emano.

Without elaborating, he said the committee on rules ‘‘exploited the rules.’’

He said the move to reject his proposal was without basis.

Ocon said he would prusue a signature campaign in the city so the public would declare Emano persona non grata.

His proposal stemmed from Emano’s memorandum that prevented city hall’s department heads and employees from appearing in investigations without his green light. Ocon has long been accusing Emano of keeping the public in the dark in regard to city hall’s finances and multimillion-peso transactions.

Mindanao Gold Star Daily

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Fresh docs show guv got favors: Moreno accusers

RADIO blocktimer Ronnie Waniwan yesterday claimed to have uncovered damning evidence that Misamis Oriental Gov. Oscar Moreno violated the anti-graft law by allegedly receiving favors from a group of companies that has been running a famous hotel in the city.

Waniwan also said he and another radio blocktimer, Eddie Dangcal, are preparing to file four more graft charges against the Misamis Oriental governor.

Waniwan confirmed his and Dangcal’s plan to file more complaints yesterday, a day after the duo lodged a second graft complaint against Moreno before the ombudsman.

Waniwan said new documents he and Dangcal supposedly uncovered were ‘‘damaging.’’
The documents, said Waniwan, would show that the Moreno violated a law that prohibits public officials from receiving gifts or favors.

Waniwan did not elaborate.

But the four additional complaints, he said, would be based on the findings of the Commission on Audit (COA) which looked into the finances of the capitol as of 2005.

On Monday, Waniwan and Dangcal filed a second complaint against Moreno for allowing the capitol purchase of medicines allegedly without a bidding.

The complaint came a week after the two accused Moreno of graft in connection with the COA’s findings that the capitol spent some P12.6 million for fuel provided to private vehicles in 2005.

Last Monday, they accused Moreno of ‘‘shopping’’ for medicines allegedly to avoid biddings.
The complaint was filed before the ombudsman around 4 pm on Monday.

Charged with Moreno were acting provincial budget officer Elmer Wabe, acting provincial accountant Divina Bade and provincial treasurer Amelita Pacuribot.

Waniwan and Dangcal, registered residents of Gingoog City and El Salvador town, respectively, alleged that Moreno conspired with Wabe, Bade and Pacuribot in purchasing medicines and other medical supplies through ‘‘shopping’’ without competitive biddings.

In a three-page complaint, Waniwan and Dangcal alleged that the officials violated Republic Act 9184 that requires for competitive biddings and released payments to suppliers to the the detriment of the province.

They said the act was also a violation of Section 3 (e) of Republic Act 3019 otherwise known as the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

Reads a portion of the Waniwan-Dangcal complaint: "In order to get away from public bidding, the province of Misamis Oriental purchased the medicines and medical supplies by splitting the purchase requests and purchase orders in order to reduce the amount per purchase order to below P250,000 in order to avail the alternative mode of shopping.’’

To avoid biddings, Waniwan said the capitol officials limited the purchase of medicines to P50 thousand a day.

But this was done daily, he said.

In one instance, they said, the capitol made several purchase requests and orders. Collectively, the medicines would cost P250 thousand.

"The only logical conclusion for this is because they were trying to evade competitive public biddings," said Waniwan.

He also said the capitol should have bought the medicines in bulk after a bidding so the prices would be advantageous to the province.

In their complaint, Waniwan and Dangcal asked the ombudsman to suspend Moreno and the other officials to ensure a no-nonsense investigation into the alleged irregularities.

This paper tried to ask capitol officials for their comment in regard to the complaint but to no avail.

Bade declined to comment, saying she was leaving matters to the office of the governor.

Moreno was not in his office when this paper tried to ask him to comment.
Moreno’s press office chief, Maricel Casiño Rivera, told reporters earlier that the governor welcomed any complaint against him and that the official was ready to defend himself before any court.

Moreno, in earlier interviews, claimed the accusations hurled at him by Waniwan and Dangcal were part of a demolition job launched by his political enemies.

Mindanao Gold Star Daily

Ocon starts sign drive to declare Emano persona non grata

OPPOSITION Councilor Zaldy Ocon yesterday said he would launch a citywide signature campaign to declare Mayor Vicente Emano persona non grata due to his failure to win the support of the PaDayon Pilipino-dominated city council.

Ocon has moved to declare the mayor persona non grata because of a controversial memorandum that prohibits city hall’s department heads and employees from appearing in investigations without the mayor’s green light. Ocon’s motion has been referred to a city council committee.

But Ocon said he was certain the motion would be rejected because pro-Emano councilors like Councilor Edgar Cabanlas were against it from the beginning.

"There are only two of us fighting. We would be lucky to get three votes,’’ said Ocon.

During his DxCC program, Ocon started calling on residents to support his cause. He said he would work to win the support of at least half of the city’s population for his signature campaign.

Ocon said barangay-based leaders who are disappointed with the Emano administration would help him carry out the citywide signature campaign.

For starters, Ocon’s campaign centers would be at radio station DxCC and the capitol grounds near the Cagayan de Oro Press Club Building on Apolinar Velez St..

On Monday, Ocon moved to declare Emano persona non grata because of the administration’s policy which the councilor said was against transparency and good governance. He alleged that the alleged graft and corrupt practices in city hall have become ‘‘uncontrollable.’’

Ocon reiterated his call for Emano to explain and show documents in regard to multimillion-peso projects, including the market and terminal construction projects in Bulua and Gusa, and the build-operate-transfer scheme for the Cogon and Carmen markets.

Ocon also called for transparency in regard to the construction of the Pelaez Bridge and the multimillion-peso road projects.

Ocon’s motion is set for discussion in the council’s committee on laws and rules chaired by Councilor Maryanne Enteria, another Emano ally.

Councilor Cabanlas said the proposed resolution is tainted with political motives. He argued that Emano cannot be declared persona non grata because he was elected mayor of the city.

Ocon’s motion would be the main agenda of the Enteria committee this afternoon.

"The resolution filed by councilor Ocon will be deliberated Wednesday," Enteria confirmed.

Enteria said members of the committee would focus on the legitimacy of the proposed resolution.

If approved, the motion would be discussed by the council on Monday.

But earlier, Enteria called the proposed resolution "baseless." She said it was an ‘‘accusation’’ and not a ‘‘resolution.’’

Enteria said the committee would determine if the Ocon proposal should be calendared for council discussion.

Mindanao Gold Star Daily

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Presumption of innocence favors judge, says Villaroya

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (Susan Palmes and Ben Balce / Sep 18) - A prominent Cagayan de Oro lawyer who caught the ire of judges when he publicly expressed his concern over allegations of corruption in the city’s courts several months ago said the accuser of regional Judge Gregorio Pantanosas would need to work harder to substantiate his claim that the magistrate asked a P1-million bribe.

‘‘The presumption of innocence favors the judge more so as the complainant is a publicity seeker,’’ said lawyer Roderico Villaroya.

Pantanosas’ accuser, Elly Pamatong, has been described by some lawyers here as ‘‘sharp’’ but ‘‘weird.’’

Pamatong is the same lawyer who was barred by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) from running for President in 2004 because he was a ‘‘nuisance candidate.’’ That same year, he was linked to a group that scattered metal spikes on the streets and roads of Manila.

Pamatong is also known to be advocating to make the Philippines one of the states of the US.
Villaroya said he witnessed when Pantanosas ordered Pamatong to remove his fez inside the courtroom. He said he did not find the incident ‘‘alarming.’’

‘‘What transpired after is beyond my knowledge,’’ said Villaroya.
He added: ‘‘If a judge accepts a bribe, the lawyer is the bigger thief. Lawyers should not offer bribes as normally judges do not demand unless tempted."

Former vice mayor Antonio Soriano, a lawyer by profession, said he doubted if Pantanosas did what Pamatong claimed the judge did.

"I don’t think judge Pantanosas would do that," Soriano said.
"I know Judge Pantanosas personally, he is a good judge," Soriano said.

As for Pamatong, Soriano said, "I really don’t know him. It’s hard to describe him. I don’t even know if Pamatong is really a Muslim or a Christian."

But at the end of the day, Soriano said the question of who is really telling the truth would be decided by the Supreme Court.

The case against Pantanosas has become the talk of the town insofar as the city’s legal community is concerned. But most lawyers have opted not to speak on the record.

Even at the Hall of Justice, court employees opted to keep mum.

The Mindanao Gold Star Daily