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Deconstructing EdSa

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INTO THE last half of his third and last term as City of San Fernando hizzoner, has Edwin “EdSa” Santiago been bitten by the construction bug and developed an edifice complex?

So, how does this impact in his city and people?

P300-M convention center to rise in San Fernando. So screamed SunStar-Pampanga this weekend past, reporting of Santiago, along with 3rd District Rep. Aurelio “Dong” Gonzales and DPWH officials, breaking ground for the project in Barangay Calulut.

“This is another of our priority projects that aim to spur development in this area of the city and would galvanize the role of the capital as perfect place to host major events and gatherings.” So was Gonzales quoted.

“We have been pushing for growth areas in the city and this area is one of them. This project will surely bring in much needed development.” So Santiago echoed.

“This project will make government a direct competitor – formidable at that for simply being government – of the privately owned convention centers in the capital.” So a number of local businesspeople cried. No, not one of them having any interest, personal or financial, in the LausGroup Events Center and the Kingsborough International Convention Center.

My, my, my! Is it by some serendipity, or irony, that it was at the LausGroup Event Center in July 2018, in his state of the city address, that Santiago announced what SunStar-Pampanga duly reported thus: City of San Fernando to establish P1.2-B civic center.

Of the amount, some P236 million had already been allocated for funding, so Santiago was quoted as saying. And that “some of the projects have already been started like the command and control center, youth development center, multipurpose center, central evacuation center, Department of Education training center, special drug education center and the technical vocational school.”

It was though at the launch of Kaganapan 2019 in February last year that Santiago made the civic center project as centerpiece of the cityhood anniversary celebrations. To much public acclaim, I vividly remember.

Having that in mind, I expected Santiago to announce another mega infra project at Monday’s news conference launching Kaganapan 2020, if only in keeping with last year’s impressive template. The still-hushhush P600-million (or is it P650-M?) loan that the sangguniang panlungsod reportedly approved only last week to be contracted with the LandBank of the Philippines (?) for the rehabilitation of the old public market, I had hoped Santiago would unravel but did not.

That nothing on this issue has come out officially from the city government – not from the council, not from the mayor – not only merited those question marks in the above paragraph but, moreso, fanned the flames of controversy, and validated the speculations, mostly unkind if not downright damning, about it.

In the run-up to the 2019 local polls, Santiago – on local cable television – vehemently denied any loan for a market project. No loans involved: CSF granted P500M for new market, so headlined SunStar-Pampanga on May 7, 2019.

Santiago was quoted in the story as saying “the redevelopment of the new public market here will be funded by the Office of the President, contrary to claims that the city government took a loan to pursue the project.”

Claiming further: “…the Office of the President granted the city government’s request for assistance amounting to P500 million.”

“We presented the study to the Malacañan Palace and just recently, we finally received their response which meant that they are granting our request.” So was Santiago quoted.

Reported the paper: “Based on a letter from the Office of the President dated March 13, 2019, it “identified the project under Priority Funding in Fiscal Year 2019” and is only awaiting some documents before the Department of Budget Management facilitates the release of funds.”

Declared Santiago: “There is no loan, we never took one. We looked for funding through our partners in the national government and we are very lucky that Malacañan heard our request.”

Pray, tell, dear mayor: Where is that P500-million grant from the Office of the President now?

Given the almost certainty of that P600 million (P650 million?) loan the city council last week approved (?) to be contracted by the city with the LBP (?), that grant was no more than hot, tepid, air – pautot, in kanto lingo – only for the campaign hustings.

Santiago – the sangguniang panlungsod too – is bound by duty, by transparency, to come clean about this – whichever: grant or loan? old market or new market? As well on the other infra projects being implemented by the city government.

Else, the most malicious of all imputations – of these as sources for pabaon or pakimkim – will impact upon them, primarily on Santiago, happening as these big-ticket infra projects – P300-M, P1.2-B, P500-M, P600-M or P650-M – are in his last term.

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