Election Scandal in Bohol

Editorial: Sunday Post
Something tells us the on-and-off affair of Lakas-Kampi with Gov. Erico Aumentado is not over. Earlier dumped by Lakas as official bet for his old congressional seat, Aumentado is back in the good graces of the administration party when his certificate of nomination and acceptance (Cona) was restored.

   In effect, Lakas also revoked the Cona issued to Trinidad Mayor Judith Cajes. This sets the stage for one of the most bitterly fought electoral battles in next year's elections.

   Of course, the interesting sidebar to this tussle was the manner in which Aumentado was nearly elbowed out by the combined forces of Rep. Edgar Chatto and Rep. Roberto Cajes. In spite of all their professions of innocence, there is no doubt about the part that they played in the whole drama.

   Granting that party higher-ups were the ones who lowered the boom on Aumentado, no one bit the canard that they were unaware of it. If they were unaware of the charges of disloyalty against Aumentado, they are one of two things: they are completely ignorant of local developments or they are downright stupid.

   Of course, the two gentlemen are neither ignorant of developing events nor stupid. This leads to the conclusion that they were the ones who cooked the virtual slap on the face of Aumentado.

   From the look of things, Mayor Cajes will pursue her candidacy. As to whether she will fight it out inside Lakas or run as an independent, only future events will tell.

   Aumentado emerged a big winner in this strange episode of betrayal among erstwhile inseparable party mates simply because he was the victim. He played his role well as a senior statesman stabbed in the back by the upstarts.

   The governor is also expected to parlay to his advantage the fact that Rep. Cajes is his virtual creation and that Mayor Cajes is coming out as an eager beaver who should give way to Aumentado who is riding into the sunset.

   Another big winner is Vice Gov. Julius Caesar Herrera who is expected to benefit from the negative publicity Chatto is getting in the aborted ouster of Aumentado. Herrera is expected to make his move and seize the momentum.

   The Cajes couple need to repair the damage done against them before the bar of public perception. With one daughter also waiting in the wings, the dynasty issue was already a major issue until this controversy came.

   It is too early to tell how far Chatto was affected in the row. It is safe to assume though that in the aftermath, he is left suffering from a credibility crisis. 

Ambush in Bohol Philippines

Two unknown gunmen armed with a 9 mm pistol and another a 45 cal. firearm waylaid Board Member Josil Trabajo while on board a government-issued Isuzu Crosswind Wednesday evening but fortunately for the lawmaker, his live-in partner and their child as the three car occupants, escaped unhurt. 

The kind of firearms used in the ambush was determined by the spent shells found in the crime scene. 

Trabajo and his common law wife identified as Daisy Comahig, of legal age, and now residing along Banat-i Road in Dampas district, this city, just came in from the Bohol Tropics where they presumably had dinner. 

When the Trabajo family was near their rented apartment in Dampas, two men came from behind and peppered their vehicle with bullets. 

At least three bullets holes were found in the door panel and rear window of the car but failed to hit its mark which apparently was the board member. 

When Trabajo sensed that he was being targeted for assassination, he immediately ordered his driver to speed off. This was the time when the gunmen shot at the fast moving vehicle missing its target. 

At least two angles were being looked into by police investigators. Police are looking into the possibility that it was a case of mistaken identity or possibly the handiwork of hired guns on orders of a principal who must have something to do with the public official's romantic relations. 

Trabajo has long been separated with his wife who is now in the United States. 

When interviewed right after the incident, Trabajo claimed that his companion was his wife only to correct himself that the other occupant in the car was his live-in-partner. 

In a report from Police Supt. Julius Cesar Gornez to Provincial Director Eduardo Ingking of the Bohol Philippine National Police, the city police chief   reported that in a subsequent investigation, he was informed that the board member's legal wife in the US threatened him with harm. The death threat was confirmed no less by Trabajo. 

In zeroing in on the possible motives of attempted murder, Supt. Gornez likewise dismissed speculations that it was politically motivated. 

According to Trabajo, he cannot remember that there was an existing threat on his life during his entire political career. 

However, only lately, the board member from Carmen was in the news after he and eight others including former mayor Pedro Budiongan,Jr. were acquitted of an anti-graft case that spanned all of eight years before the Sandiganbayan  found them innocent of graft charges. Trabajo was haled to court in his capacity as former vice mayor of Carmen. As a result of the criminal case, the former Carmen vice mayor was suspended for 90 days. 

He just finished serving his suspension when the acquittal came. 

Trabajo is running for reelection as board member of the third district under the Lakas- Kampi CMD banner.  

Bohol Smuggling Scandal

A Bohol unit of the Philippine Anti-Smuggling Group (PASG) is under fire after it conducted a two-day operations against local businessmen resulting in arbitrary interceptions of goods and commodities getting out of the city insular wharf.  

Crying foul against the unnecessary searches were the Provincial Development Council and the Bohol Chamber of Commerce and Industry which took the cudgels for the local businessmen who felt harassed by the PASG-Bohol. 

But Rommel Manhilot a.k.a as Rommel Montano, an actor and younger brother of gubernatorial candidate Cesar Montano who claims to be the director of the local PASG unit, said that there was nothing irregular in their operations.  The elder Montano is also an actor and a multi-awarded at that. 

On December 9-10, Montano's group made up of 10 men, mounted a checkpoint at the city pier to inspect the import documents of Bohol-bound cargoes.  

Just like Montano, its team leader is another Baclayon native identified as Greg Quinal. 

According to Montano, if there's anybody who's more careful of not doing any unlawful act, it would be him knowing the impact it will bear on the candidacy of his brother. 

However, the Baclayon native said he cannot reneged on his mandate to implement the intent of Executive Order No. 624. The executive fiat created the PASG to apprehend, seize, investigate and prosecute acts involving smuggling, unlawful importation and other similar violations, and providing measures to curtail smuggling and expedite proceedings. 

Montano said contrary to some allegations, his team was maintaining utmost courtesy in making inspections of import documents that passed through the city pier.

The PASG official said his attention was called by Malacanang that Bohol ports including the City Tagbilaran was used as transshipment point of illegal drugs and firearms. 

Asked what was the reaction of his brother-politician, after his name was graded in the PASG controversy Montano quoted his sibling as saying "for as long as you're doing your job, it's okay with me". 

PDC COMPLAINT

The PDC met on December 10 at the Bohol Tropics Resort Club and presided over by Gov. Erico Aumentado to tackle the PASG issue.

After getting hold of the BCCI complaint, the PDC swung into action to inquire into the legality of the PASG operations.

The two bodies also questioned Montano's authority for directing such arbitrary interception, and furthermore, vehemently protested his questionable procedures, which are inimical to the economic development of the entire province;

The so-called arbitrary interception was made on delivery trucks and other vehicles carrying Christmas goods and other commodities in the port of Tagbilaran city and in other ports throughout the province of Bohol by the PASG unit.

The controversial PASG activities came at a time when Trade Sec. Peter Favila was in town. Without missing a beat, the two bodies appealed to the trade secretary for expeditious action.

The PDC and BCCI also sought the assistance of Department of Finance Secretary Gary Teves, Bureau of Customs Commissioner Napoleon Morales, and PASG head, Undersecretary Antonio Villar Jr. to look into their complaints in relation to the activities of the anti-smuggling group in Bohol.i

Asked if Montano was a duly authorized PASG agent, he said he has a mission order to authenticate his appointment as the body's director for Bohol.

Montano showed up to the Post offices  yesterday after he was tipped off that his team's conduct at the city pier was subjected to a thorough inquiry by the city's business sector.

According to the PDC resolutio,n this unannounced and highly questionable interception has resulted to the interruption of the normal flow of delivery of basic commodities to the consuming public, even locally-produced goods such as sugar and fertilizers, thereby causing inconvenience to a great number of businesses, especially large distributors such as the Alturas Group of Companies, Bohol Quality Corporation, and AH Shoppers Mart, and adversely affecting economic activity during the Christmas Season,

 

PDC also noted that it's the first time that the City of Tagbilaran and Province of Bohol have experienced the "highly questionable act of interception" that caused anxiety and confusion in the business community and among customers, aside from the negative impression regarding affected businessmen.

The businessmen pointed out during the meeting that they were transporting locally-produced goods which could have no other sources but the farms and local manufacturers.

BCCI members clarified that they fully support the objectives and goals of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's Executive Order 624 that created PASG issued on May 21, 2007.

BCCI  COMPLAINT   

The local businessmen said the operation of Montano's team can be tantamount to harassment.

"This act of interception may even be branded as a form of harassment, since the General Manager of the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) in Bohol, Manuel Boholano, has explicitly declared in a meeting with the BCCI that interception of business operations is proper and permissible only when there is an intelligence report of anomaly," the resolution stated.

The businessmen further complained that Montano's intercepting team even asked for official receipts of the goods when it has long been a business practice to keep official receipts in the company office for security and safekeeping, and the company driver and staff only carry with them the Bill of Lading for the commodities. 
 

Lakas-Kampi-CMD officially reinstated Bohol Governor Erico Aumentado

Lakas-Kampi-CMD officially reinstated Bohol Governor Erico Aumentado as candidate for congressman in the second district and revoked the Certificate of Nomination and Acceptance (CONA) of Trinidad Mayor Judith Cajes, wife of third-termer Second District Representative Roberto Cajes.

      A letter from the national directorate of the ruling party dated December 4, 2009 reached the provincial office of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) on November 9 through LBC, affirming Aumentado's CONA and revoking Mayor Cajes'.

      Copies of the communication were also furnished to Aumentado, Mayor Cajes and the Law Department of Comelec head office.

      This time, it's signed by Lakas-Kampi CMD president, Sarangani Governor Miguel Rene Dominguez, and Lakas-Kampi CMD Secretary-General Francis Xavier Manglapus.

      This resolved the issue between Aumentado and Mayor Cajes as to who holds the valid CONA for the congressional slot in the second district.

      The conflict among local stalwarts of the ruling party sparked when Mayor Cajes filed her certificate of candidacy for the congressional seat in the second district barely half an hour before midnight of December 1 with a CONA issued based on the revocation of Aumentado's, following alleged information from the party's "intelligence network" that showed the governor's disloyalty to the party.

      Aside from proving his loyalty to the party, Aumentado also questioned the validity of the communication that revoked his CONA.

      Moreover, the party's letter to the provincial election supervisor dated December 1, 2009 which affirmed Mayor Cajes' CONA and revoked Aumentado's was signed only by Manglapus and party deputy secretary-general Raymundo Roquero. The governor asserted that the party rules require the signatures of both the party president and the party secretary-general in the candidates' CONA.

      Aumentado also questioned why the letter only mentioned the affirmation of Cajes' CONA and revocation of his, without mentioning the reasons for the supposed revocation.

      The December 4 communication stated that the party reinstates Aumentado as its official candidate for the second district congressional race with CONA no. 22565.

      The communication hereby revoked the CONA with serial no. 22522 issued for the supposed candidacy of Mayor Cajes in the second district congressional race.

      Aumentado explained that the new communication is an official document that attests he is the "solo" candidate of Lakas-Kampi CMD for congressman in the second district.

      He explained that it also retroacts the CONA's validity to the date it was issued and filed before the Comelec.

      The governor added that the national directorate of Lakas-Kampi CMD came up with the decision after he appealed for the reversal of his CONA's revocation, citing a malicious ploy designed by some partymates in the local chapter.

      As Aumentado questioned the validity of the communication revoking his CONA, he pointed out that under the regulations of Lakas-Kampi CMD, only the party president and party secretary-general can sign the CONA.

      In his case, the governor explained that his CONA was signed on November 18 by Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita and Presidential Adviser on Political Affairs Gabriel Claudio who were then the party president and secretary-general, respectively.

      It was during the national convention on November 19 that Ermita quit as party president and replaced by former deputy secretary-general Manglapus, while Governor Dominguez of Sarangani assumed Claudio's post as secretary-general.

      The CONA of Mayor Cajes dated November 30, 2009 was then signed by Dominguez and Claudio, though its serial number came prior to Aumentado's.

      Hours after Aumentado filed his certificate of candidacy, Cajes followed suit at around 11:40 pm of December 1 with the assumption that the party had already revoked the governor's CONA based on the communication, also dated December 1, 2009, signed by Manglapuz and Roquero.

      Aside from this account, Aumentado also cited "treachery of the highest order" on the part of some partymates.

      In the December 11 episode of his weekly radio program, The Governor Reports, Aumentado expressed gratitude to President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and Lakas-Kampi-CMD vice president for membership Prospero "Butch" Pichay Jr. for giving him "justice".

      Meanwhile, Provincial Board Member and Liga ng mga barangay president Concepcion Lim conceded to the original offer of the local hierarchy to field her to the vice gubernatorial race in tandem with First District Representative Edgar Chatto and filed her COC few minutes after Third District Representative Adam Relsom Jala withdrew his at around 8:30 am on December 14 citing "personal and family" reasons.

      Jala had already decided to quit politics earlier, but came back to the picture as an eleventh-hour pick of the party when Lim decided to back out.

      Lim's back-out opted the local arms of the ruling party to field Jala who came to the Comelec provincial office a few minutes before midnight- -clad in shirt, shorts and slippers- -to file his COC as vice gubernatorial bet of Lakas-Kampi-CMD.

      But right after filing his COC, Jala explained he was just complying party orders and hinted there would be changes as he never wanted to clash against his uncle- -retired provincial schools division superintendent Elpidio Jala- -who is running as vice governor of actor-director Cesar Montano under the Liberal Party.

      According to Aumentado, Lim dropped by his residence at around 11 pm before proceeding to the Comelec office that night to inform that Chatto and former governor Rene Relampagos- -the party's candidate for congressman in the first district- -had been convincing her to run for vice governor and that her CONA was already at the provincial Comelec office.

      Aumentado said he advised Lim to ignore the offer, saying Representative Cajes- -who was the original pick for vice governor- -might use it as a reason to field his wife, Mayor Cajes, to run against him (Aumentado) in the second district congressional race.

      Lim, then, proceeded to the provincial Comelec office to inform that she won't be filing a COC and saw the Cajes couple there.

      So, she returned to Aumentado's residence to tell the governor that he was right as Representative Cajes had also called her, informing that he would back out to accommodate her as Chatto's runningmate.

      But Lim declined, leaving Chatto's group with no other choice but the younger Jala.

      Aumentado said Representative Jala came to his house early morning the next day to explain.

      Manglapus also explained through an interview over a local radio station the day after the deadline that the party revoked Aumentado's CONA based on the information gathered by the party's "intelligence network" that showed the governor's disloyalty to Lakas-Kampi CMD.

      He said the party's "intelligence network" had been monitoring the activities of partymates in Bohol and the result allegedly found questions on the political loyalty of Aumentado.

      Manglapus described it as a thorough monitoring and consultation with local leaders including mayors and other "reliable" sources.

      However, majority of the mayors and the Provincial Board members disputed Manglapus' claim in the presence of Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap, the party's official candidate for congressman in the third district, during the emergency meeting and consultation that the governor called that morning.

      Yap had to cancel his early morning flight for Manila that day and went to the governor's residence upon the instruction of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to confirm if reports were true that there was an attempt to convince the mayors to jump to Senator Manny Villar's camp.

      The mayors and the local legislators belied the report and instead attested that in their past meetings, Aumentado had consistently expressed gratitude to the Arroyo administration for the mega projects that the national government poured on the province which never came during the stint of the past governors. And to ensure their sustainability and full implementation, Aumentado asked them to support the administration candidates. (Angeline Valencia)