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Bacolod City, Philippines Monday, January 25, 2016
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Mass vote buying - 5


A friend told me that some broadcasters are still unable to understand the nuance of the English language or, for that matter, of any language regarding the use of a figure of speech. They said the reference to “ghosts” in the Bacolod City government under Monico Puentevella is wrong, for indeed, there are people in the payroll. Well, that is unfortunate but that is not my problem if some people cannot comprehend the oxymoronic tenor or “ usugium” of a word. Let us leave them to their state of risibility.

What they did not realize, however, is that in their attempt to discredit the use of “ghosts,” they unwittingly admitted that there are people, warm bodies as it were that they are paying for doing nothing but to pledge allegiance to Monico Puentevella and his camp. These lucky people, paid at the rate of P6,820 a month are voters. In effect this mass of voters had been bought but, unfortunately for Bacolod, with their tax money, not Puentevella's or of the councilors in the Puentevella slate who have their own job order casuals.

I heard cases will soon be filed because some of those who got paid for doing nothing are singing. They are spilling the beans not because they had it so good, or were suddenly struck with the lightning of moral virtue, but because somebody was taking a cut, in fact a bigger cut. It would be interesting to know who are taking the tong outside of the mahjong table.

In all this puzzle of people being paid by taxpayer's money but who do nothing, there certainly is a beneficiary of gratitude. The over a thousand job order casuals will definitely owe the allegiance to the giver of the gift – Monico Puentevella and his camp followers who hired and appointed them to an existing job description in the city's payroll.

These are not my conjectures but are documented information that had been kept away from us, understandably.

However, after Acting Mayor Greg Gastaya took over and imposed the condition of personal appearance to receive the salary, these persons in the payroll did not come forward to claim their “pension”. Indeed they are luckier than most SSS pensioners who receive as low as P1,200 despite having contributed to the SSS.

Why didn't these people come forward since they are not ghosts? The answer is simple: they cannot justify their so-called employment or worse, somebody cannot claim their money on the basis of a written authorization, because they are not what they purported to be.

Can this mass vote buying be traced ultimately to Puentevella who has the ultimate responsibility as the appointing authority and clearly the final beneficiary of the system? Is it farfetched to suspect that he is the author and the promoter of the operation to apparently use the city coffers to advance, protect and perpetuate his ambition of political dominance that will form the base for a political dynasty?

The persons involved in this large scale operation will be known once the cases are filed. It appears providential or coincidental that a similar case came out of the papers last week involving what the Ombudsman called “ghost employees,” although by definition of the Puentevella camp enunciated by Councilor Jun Gamboa, they are not ghosts.

Gamboa pledged to answer this column when I finish this series. Although at the onset I invited him to send in his answer, he refrained from doing so. Although he had gone from one radio station to another to explain his side, nevertheless words can be “misunderstood” or “withdrawn” but not so in written form. So just to accommodate him, I will suspend continuing this column to give him all the opportunity to say his piece. I will give him a week.

Meantime, two politicians charged by the Ombudsman were dismissed and perpetually barred from holding public office for paying people with public funds although they did not perform work. The scale of their operation is small compared to the number in Bacolod that documents and the Commission on Audit have discovered. Their case involved only sixty people; in Bacolod the total can run into hundreds.

The similarities of these so-called “ghosts' employees” with those in Bacolod are too apparent to ignore the possible consequences for Bacolod officials who are also accused of the same operation. Lawyers are collating the documents and will file charges once they complete theircase. Will Gamboa be included?*



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