BY MORTZ C. ORTIGOZA
At the height of the brouhaha spawned by the P52 million loan contracted by Urbiztondo town with the Philippine National Bank, Santa Barbara Mayor Carlito Zaplan told me how he and his staff prepared the resolution that empowers him to borrow P100 million from the Land Bank of the Philippines for the construction of his new municipal hall. He said after he signed the resolution passed by his town council for review by the Sanggunian Panlalawigan (provincial board) he saw to it that it has the corresponding annual investment plan (AIP)and a legislated supplemental budget. He said after the SP approves them, he and his staff will submit it to the LBP for the latter to release a particular sum for them to start the construction of the new municipal edifice somewhere in Brgy. Ventinilla in his town. “You can not get the whole loan, LBP will only release a particular sum through progressive billing after its staff is satisfied that the constructed structures jibe with the money the bank released earlier,” he explained.
With Zaplan’s explanation, did the PNB and Urbiztondo Mayor Ernesto “ Jun” Balolong, Jr commit malfeasances after the bank gave him the entire package of P52, 400,000? The PNB and Balolong have been incessantly assailed by the members of the provincial board and the media of not complying with the legal procedures on how a loan to a local government unit is released. They said the bank and the mayor should have waited for the final review and approval by the board before the P52, 400,000 loans was released. But Balolong and his political and economic adviser Arturo Mandapat (former bursar of San Carlos City) emphatically disagreed with the accusation. They both told me the SP was in estoppels based on the 30 day prescription period provided by the Local Government Code. Section 56 (d) of the LGC provides if no action has been taken by the SP within 30 days after submission of such an ordinance or resolution, the same shall be presumed consistent with law and therefore valid. “How can we be liable when the secretariat of the SP furnished Balolong a certificate that the 30-day period has already lapsed?”Mandapat declared. He said the certificate, the ordinance and even the AIP and the supplemental budget have all been complied with. *** Critics of Balolong said the last two requirements have not been passed by the Sanggunian Bayan (town council) of the town and submitted at the board. Mandapat said all these requirements have been complied with that eventually made the PNB to release the sum. “PNB (in Manila)and the Bangko Sentral have their top notch lawyers who combed meticulously the application of the town’s for loan that they could see any requirements that application lacks,” Mandapat said.
*** Board Member Jeremy Agerico Rosario told me earlier that out of the P52,400,000 loan, P9 million has been paid for the buy-back of the old loan of the town at Land Bank of the Philippines (that used to be the town’s creditor) while P5 million remains as a balance-deposit of the town at PNB. The rest of the loan, Rosario continued, has already been used by Balolong to finance his seven projects. Mandapat hits the critics of Balolong to read first the law before they pounce on the mayor. He said the provincial board could not just arbitrarily declare that the resolution empowering the mayor to borrow was null and void. “They are not the court. Their work is to review, and if they find any irregularity they have to submit their findings to the SB (town council) in relation to Section 56 (c)”. Mandapat said that Balolong has asked the Commission on Audit to have another special audit of his loan so that the COA could certify if there is irregularity on the disbursement of the money. “It is easy to accuse Balolong of anti-graft and corrupt practices. But remember that in filing of the case and trial-proper the accuser should show that the mayor has benefited personally on the loan. Mahirap patunayan iyan!’ he declared. Tsk, tsk, tsk with Mandapat’s kind of adverse argument versus some members of the board and Balolong’s critics expect more spectacles as we spectators cross our fingers with bated breath on the sidelines.
“It’s more fun in Pangasinan!” especially after the raid of the police at the house of Balolong by finding only that all of his 14 M-16s, AK-47s, and M-14s automatic assault rifles were all licensed by Camp Crame. “It’s more fun in Pangasinan!” after tuning my TV channel to another channel, I saw Vice Governor Ferdie Calimlim and Board Member Alfie Bince were after the scalp of Board Member Ranjit Shahani after the latter allegedly maligned them and Governor Amado T. Espino in different fora the fire-breathing Shahani was invited to speak. Calimlim and Bince wanted to “discipline” Shahani through the cooperation of their Espino- friendly colleagues at the August Chamber. Shahani, a former congressman and nephew of former president Fidel V Ramos, is rumored to challenge Calimlim for the vice gubernatorial post next year’s poll. “It’s not only on his attack against us, we are going to dig his administrative wrongdoings at his office,” Calimlim told me when I bumped with him at Pozzurobio town recently. Son of a gun, Calimlim’s exciting revelation should be part of this column but because of time-constraint I am going to publish it next week. Abangan ang susunod na kabanata! Ranjit must prepare his rebuttals, he he he. This would be another free scintillating moment for the political spectators. (You can read my selected intriguing but thought-provoking columns at http://mortzortigoza.blogspot.com. You can send comments too at firstname.lastname@example.org).