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Bacolod City, Philippines Monday, February 8, 2016
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Linguistic duels


If a picture can say a thousand words, a word or two can create plenty of moments to enjoy and parry. The two factions in the political combat in Bacolod are engaged in a duel due to a word or phrase that probably was spoken without much thought as to the impact of its meaning.

When Monico Puentevella was suspended, he was reported to have uttered “I shall return!” As those who are knowledgeable about World II in the Pacific, this pledge was spoken by General Douglas MacArthur on his arrival in Australia. MacArthur was ordered by President Franklin Roosevelt to escape from Corregidor in March 1942 in order to mobilize, train and lead an army that will retake the Pacific from Japan and subdue the Japanese Empire.

Surely Puentevella made this pledge to reassure his followers and bolster his wounded pride that his suspension being only for 90 days will eventually end and he will come back to his office.

The camp of Cong. Evelio Leonardia pounced on Puentevella with a retort: Thank you if you will return the money that is the subject of the graft and corruption case that led to your suspension. As our readers know, Puentevella is charged for using his Priority Development Assistance Fund to purchase computers for Bacolod's public schools.

The Ombudsman believed that the computers were overpriced at P400,000 each, only a few were delivered, and the bidding process was rigged. The Ombudsman found probable cause and filed the case. The Sandiganbayan also found justification to issue a warrant for his arrest but allowed Puentevella to post bail. As a matter of procedure the SB suspended him.

The “I shall return” pledge evaporated from Puentevella as a battlecry but, by then, the Leonardia camp made political hay by repeating and repeating the reason why Puentevella got suspended and can help himself if he “shall return the money”.

A few weeks ago, Puentevella talked about his crucifixion or being nailed to the cross. It was another gaffe. Leonardia's broadcasters asked: which one was Puentevella? The famous crucifixion is that of Jesus with two others, a repentant thief and the unrepentant one. Since Puentevella cannot claim to be Jesus and he has not repented, then that leaves only one that can refer to Puentevella – so goes the logic anyway.

Not learning from the mistake of alluding to or making himself appear like the crucified Christ, Puentevella now declared that he will “resurrect” and had called for his supporters to attend the party celebration when has suspension ends next week.

The “resurrection” claim and the party were attendees are to come in white garb gained Puentevella another pounding. The Leonardia broadcasters charged that he is being sacrilegious, mocking a religious event and has probably starting a cult where he is the resurrected leader. Moreover, has Puentevella died that he will resurrect? Leonardia's broadcasters asked?

The Puentevella broadcasters retorted saying the reference to resurrection is only “an idiomatic expression” and that again earned the term, “idiotic expression” coined by the other camp.

Bacolod Councilor Jun Gamboa took issue with the oxymoronic terminology “ghost employees”, a description of people in the payroll of the Bacolod City government during the Puentevella administration but do not report for work. They “appear” only when it is salary time. Some never appeared; somebody collected their salaries.

Gamboa inadvertently got into a mess when he insisted there are no “ghost employees” because they really exist and working in the city.

Unknown to Gamboa, the Leonardia camp had started digging into the city records when Acting Mayor Greg Gasataya took over and thus allowed him and his sleuths, I suppose, to get records into sensitive offices. Among these are the payrolls and appointments.

They also found a bunch of identification cards and the pile of authorization for this or that person to collect the salaries of several others. The question arose: why did these employees have to authorize someone else to get his or her salary when he or she was just across the table or working within the Government Center?

On pay day, Gasataya required that those in the payroll must show identification that they are indeed the person listed in the payroll and certified by their supervisor to have worked. Close to two thousand people in the payroll did not appear to collect their salaries.

Next week let's find out how the resurrection turns out and more linguistic skirmishes.*





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