Gov files plunder raps vs. Lito, Mark Lapid

    CITY OF SAN FERNANDO – Gov. Eddie Panlilio filed yesterday before the Office of the Ombudsman plunder charges against Sen. Lito Lapid and his son former governor Mark Lapid in connection with alleged anomalies in lahar quarry funds during their gubernatorial terms in this province.

    “They have to account for some P568 million lahar quarry funds that’s missing during their  terms,” Panlilio told Punto in an interview after he filed his complaint before the Ombudsman in Quezon City.

    “Such audacity to enrich themselves at the expense of the people is precisely the crime defined and penalized by the law on plunder,” Panlilio said in formal complaint.

    Also named as respondents in the plunder case were former provincial administrator Fidel Arcenas, former provincial treasurers Jovito Sabado and Vergel Yabut.

    In a statement he issued after filing his complaint, Panlilio said “I filed the plunder case against these five former public officials to seek justice for our kabalen (provincemates) who – after being displaced, killed, hurt and impoverished by the eruptions of Mt. Pinatubo in June 1991 and the following lahar flows – had been deprived of basic social services due to the corrupt practices by the Lapid administrations.”

    “Wala pong personalan dito. Dobleng trahedya ang nangyari. Karapatan ng mga Kapampangan ang nilapastangan dito. Kaya katarungan ang ating hangad.(There is nothing personal here. What befell us was a double tragedy. Kapampangans were abused. So justice is due them),” he said.     

    He stressed that “the evidence against the Lapids is strong”, as he cited records that “the Lapid administrations collected only 121 million pesos in sand and gravel taxes from 2002 to June 2007.”

    “The collections under the Lapids should have amounted to at least 689 million pesos based on the number of truckloads made to pay environmental ecological fees in the towns of Floridablanca, Mabalacat and Porac in five and a half years,” he noted.

    He said this means that no less than P568 million were unaccounted for six years of the administrations of both Lapids. 

    This, after he reported that his administration has exceeded quarrying income records in this province as taxes from lahar sand and gravel industry reached P395.5 since he assumed post almost three years ago.

    Panlilio noted that the P395.5 million raised under his administration is also more than double the total of P155.626 million collected in 11 years under the two Lapid administrations.

    He noted that in 2006, Mark reported quarry income of only P26.1 million for the entire year.

    “During my first months as governor after substantial funds were raised from quarrying operations, people began asking me why those who had cheated them before in quarry income should not be held responsible,” he said.

    Panlilio noted that “the low collections during the Lapid administrations happened despite big-ticket infrastructure projects such as North Luzon Expressway and the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway.”

    “Pampanga and the nearby provinces have no such big projects now, yet your provincial government has been able to collect quarry taxes in an unprecedented level,” he noted.

    The elder Lapid held the governorship for three consecutive terms before he became senator. He was succeeded by his son Mark whom Panlilio defeated in the 2007 polls. Mark is now officer-in-charge of the Philippine Tourism Authority. As governor of Pampanga, I have filed today a case for plunder against Senator Manuel “Lito” Lapid, his son former governor Mark

    In his complaint, Panlilio noted that “the extent of the damage and prejudice to the constituents of the province caused by the undue advantage taken by the respondents of their respective official positions is morally shocking even with the successive years of inflation suffered by the Philippine peso.”

    Panlilio noted that his administration’s accomplishment in the quarrying operations came amid harassments, threats of bodily harm and bribe attempts which  loyal provincial employees overcame. He noted that one employee was even killed in the crusade against graft and corruption.

    The highest collection on record was P394.4 million also for a three-year period during the Estrada administration when local quarrying was removed from the jurisdiction of then Gov. Lito Lapid and placed under the government-owned Natural Resources Development Corp. (NRDC).

    “With a year more in office, I aim to fully accomplish the major reforms in the quarry monitoring and collection system. I shall, in the next few weeks, institutionalize measures to sustain the gains in this public tax sector.  Please help me in ensuring that our Kabalen, especially our poor people are uplifted from their suffering that denies them access to basic social services thereby denigrating their dignity amid the worsening economic crisis,” Panlilio said.


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