In Aquino turf, ‘tuwid na daan’ takes form of suits
TARLAC CITY—Not all is well in President Aquino’s home city.
On Dec. 29 last year, half of the 12-member Tarlac City council filed cases of dishonesty, grave misconduct and falsification of public documents at the Ombudsman against Mayor Gelacio Manalang, Vice Mayor Miguel Tanedo, other city officials and officers of the Land Bank of the Philippines in connection with a P328-million loan.
Documents sent to the Office of the Ombudsman were released only last week.
The loan, payable in 10 years, was meant to finance various city projects, among them the construction of multipurpose buildings, the rehabilitation of the Ninoy Aquino Boulevard and the slope protection project for the Tarlac River dike.
The complainants—Councilors Ricardo Diolazo, Ana Aguas, Ponciano Noel Soliman III, Emily Ladera-Facunla, Vladimir Rodriguez and Roel Quiroz—sued Manalang, Tanedo and other city and bank officials because the city government did not use the “authentic ordinance” that authorized the mayor to transact with the Landbank.
The complainants said the ordinance became the basis for approving the loan, but the one submitted to the Landbank appeared to be tampered with and allegedly included the signature of a councilor who was absent when the measure was passed.
The councilors withdrew the ordinance during the Nov. 8, 2012, session, but the city government proceeded to bid out the projects, believing that the council had no quorum at the time. Bank officials proceeded with the loan.
A councilor who was sued said the charges are politically motivated. Manalang and Tanedo are running for reelection under Lakas. The complaining councilors are members of the Liberal Party and the Nationalist People’s Coalition.
The loan approval had divided the council even before the complaint was filed. Since Nov. 8, the council has not convened for its weekly sessions because of lack of quorum.
During the Nov. 8 session, Aguas said in a privilege speech that the loan would further jeopardize the already “dismal financial position of the city government.”
Aguas cited a Commission on Audit report saying the city has a P163-million deficit.
Soliman said the councilors did not wish to put the city government in a bad light. “We should be an example in making true the President’s vows for transparency and good governance, and trek the straight path,” he said.