Year of laments, hopes, Boking

    THE YEAR 2015 ends in Pampanga with a certain degree of penal lament: freedom for detained Kapampangan former President and 2nd district Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has remained elusive, while at the Xevera housing projects in Mabalacat City and Bacolor, the fate of thousands of folk remain in limbo as real estate developer Delfin Lee languishes in jail.

    Yet, the year ends with hope that, although rather belatedly under the Aquino government, the Clark International Airport will finally take off after P1.2 billion was allocated for a new bigger terminal whose construction is expected to go full blast in 2016.

    The passing year was also highlighted with mystery as hundreds of witnesses in various parts of the province reported seeing huge and glowing unidentified flying objects in their skies last April. The phenomenon was captured on videos and photos, and generated international focus on the internet.

    In Mabalacat City, incumbent Mayor Marino Morales, already dubbed as the country’s longest staying mayor since he was elected to the post in 1995, is boosting his reputation for political longevity by again declaring his candidacy for the 2016 polls. His case has become an interesting study of local politicians.

    Through almost six years of the Aquino administration, Kapampangans never lost their love for former Pres. Arroyo who is running unopposed in 2016 for a third and last term as congresswoman in Pampanga’s second district.

    Despite her being jailed for alleged plunder early on in the Aquino government, local political leaders opted to form a local party instead of jumping to the Liberal Party, in an implicit declaration of loyalty to her who, during her presidency, reached the most far-flung areas in her province to deliver goods.

    Former Candaba Mayor Jerry Pelayo said the case against Arroyo was merely political.

    “This is bolstered by the recent declaration of the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (UNWGAD) that the Philippine government violated internationallaws for her continued arbitrary and illegal detention,” he said.

    Recently, the Supreme Court allowed Arroyo to leave her hospital detention for six days to spend Christmas and New Year holidays at her home in Quezon City.

    In a resolution, the SC allowed Arroyo to leave the Veterans Memorial Medical Center, where she is under hospital arrest, at 8 a.m. on December 23, and celebrate Christmas at her residence inside La Vista Subdivision until 5 p.m. of December 26.

    Then at 8 a.m. on December 30, Arroyo is once again allowed to go back to La Vista to spend the New Year there until 5 p.m. of January 2 next year.

    For Kapampangans who have remained loyal to her, Arroyo’s furlough was not enough, as they have always demanded her freedom.

    They have expressed hope that next year, under a new president after the May elections, Arroyo would at last be free.

    The case of Globe Asiatique President Delfin Lee, who has been detained at the Pampanga provincial jail since last
    year, has gone beyond alleged syndicated estafa, amid its effects on some 10,000 owners of homes in his Xevera housing projects in Bacolor and Mabalacat City in the province.

    Homeowners associations from the two projects, representing some 10,000 residents wrote recently a letter addressed to Supreme Court Chief Justice Lourdes Sereno to immediately resolve Lee’s case that has put in limbo the ownership of their housing units.

    Lee has been detained at the provincial jail in the capital city of San Fernando amid charges of syndicated estafa filed by the Home Development Mutual Fund or Pag-IBIG Fund over the Xevera projects.

    In a four-page letter to Sereno, the residents said the case has led to confusion after Pag-IBIG refused to accept their monthly amortization and that they were told that payments would be accepted only if they pressed more charges against Lee’s Globe Asiatique.

    Globe Asiatique used to be authorized by Pag-IBIG to collect their amortizations.

    According to a lawyer of Lee, the developer has expressed lament over the negative effects of his case on the residents in the Xevera projects.

    “During a recent Senate hearing, top Pag-IBIG officials admitted I never owed the agency anything, so what is the basis for estafa? Why am I in jail,” the lawyer quoted Lee as saying.

    During that hearing, Pag- IBIG president Darlene Berberabe admitted under oath that Globe Asiatique did not owe her agency P6.5 billion as was initially reported and that, on the contrary, the agency had in its possession some P600 million funds of Globe Asiatique.

    It has been Lee’s contention that since the estafa case was filed against him, not a single resident of Xevera has surfaced to declare that somebody else has claimed ownership of their units, contrary to Pag-IBIG allegations of double selling of the units.

    The Xevera residents complained in an interview that facilities in their subdivisions have significantly deteriorated since supervision of Lee was stopped by Pag-IBIG after he was charged with estafa. At the Xevera project in Mabalacat, rides in an amusement park developed by Lee had to be dismantled and eventually sold as they deteriorated. Electric cables at the big church also donated by Lee to the residents have already been stolen.

    When Pres. Aquino ascended to Malacanang in 2010, many Kapampangans hoped he would pursue measures to finally transform the Clark International Airport into the country’s premiere gateway.

    This after all was the declaration of Executive Order 192 issued by Pres. Fidel Ramos way back in 1994.

    But then, the government stopped the construction of the Caloocan-Clark North Railway project already with funding of some $500 million from China, alleging the project was tainted with anomalies. The project, seen as a vital component of the Clark airport, was never brought up anew by the government.

    But Central Luzon folk who have pinned their hopes on the Clark airport as a great boost to the regional economy got a hopeful shot in the arm when Malacanang approvedthis year the allocation of P1.2 billion for the construction of a new French-designed modern airport passenger terminal at the airport.

    Clark International Airport Corp. (CIAC) President-CEO Emigdio Tanjuatco said the terms of reference for the project, which would cost a total of P15 billion when totally finished up to 2022, are now being prepared for bidding.

    Tanjuatco said the President was briefed on the new terminal’s benefits to the people of Central and Northern Luzon, as well as on how the expanded passenger terminal could absorb the shortcomings of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).

    “We also told him that larger airlines would be easier to convince to establish regular flights at Clark with a more modern and bigger passenger terminal,” he added.

    Tanjuatco explained that the P1.2 billion would be for the first phase of the new terminal that would increase Clark airport’s capacity from four to seven million passengers annually.

    The total cost of the terminal, designed by Aeroport de Paris, Inc. would be P15 billion when finished by 2022. “It will increase Clark airport passenger terminal floor area by some 50,000 square meters,” he added.

    He said the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) is seeking from the Commission on Elections (Comelec) an exemption from the election ban on government project construction to pave the way for the completion of the P1.2-billion first phase of the project by 2017.

    Meanwhile, the Bases Conversion Development Authority (BCDA) has announced it would fund the proposed railway to link Clark to a railway system also planned between Metro Manila and Malolos, Bulacan.

    But then, this is not expected to take off anything for the rest of the already short term of the President.

    On the night of April 26, 2015, hundreds of folk in the area of Lubao town were baffled and amazed by glowing UFO’s in their skies. A similar phenomenon was again observed over Angeles City in November.

    In Lubao, some witnesses recorded the UFO’s on their cellphone videos and cameras and posted them in the internet. The manifestations of the brightly glowing objects over the Lubao diversion road lasted from five to eight minutes.

    In November, witnesses also said they saw dancing lights hovering above the Sto. Rosario parish church in Angeles City’s old downtown.

    Elmor Escocia, chief of the UFO team of the astronomy division of the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) noted that “we almost dismissed it as a case of land-based halogen light being reflected in the clouds, until we received reports that the phenomenon was observed even during episodes of cloudlessness.”

    Some Angeles folk said searchlights produced the dancing light, although the police said they found no such searchlights while the phenomenon was going on.

    Escocia said sky phenomena were reported in Caloocan City and Marilao, Bulacan in February in 2014, but the lights, upon investigation, were traced to a powerful light being used in a karaoke bar in Marilao.

    Incumbent Mabalacat City Mayor Marino “Bokinbg” Morales has belatedly filed his re-election bid by substituting for a candidate of the Aksyon Demokratiko party.

    Morales said his wife Nina, who was earlier proclaimed mayoral candidate of the local party Kambilan as a substitute for him, withdrew her candidacy.

    Morales has been mayor of this city since 1995 by some lucky twists of politics.

    Noted election lawyer Romulo Macalintal said there were no impediments to Morales’ candidacy despite his continuous mayoral term since 1995.

    Morales has served continuously as Mabalacat mayor in 1995-1998; in 1998-2001, in 2001-2004; in 2004-2007; in 2007-2010; in 2010-2013; and is now serving his current 2013-2016 term.

    Macalintal said that Morales is merely on his first term as city mayor since Mabalacat became a chartered city in 2012.

    Unusual political twists made Morales the country’s longest staying mayor. After three terms, he ran anew for mayor in 2004 in what could have been his fourth term. He took advantage of a Commission on Elections ruling, rendered rather belatedly, that his opponent was the true winner in the previous 2001 elections.

    The rival candidate in the 2004 elections, businessman Anthony Dee, questioned his candidacy. But the case dragged on while Morales stayed as mayor.

    A few weeks before his contested fourth term ended, the Comelec declared Boking to have lost the protest in the 2001 polls. By that time, however, he had virtually served the entire three-year term already.

    The legal effect of this loss was that there was a break in the counting of Boking’s terms.

    Hence in the succeeding election, he was qualified to run again. He ran, won and started another winning streak.

    When Morales won again in 2004, a supporter of his opponent filed a protest insisting that the mayor was on his fourth term in violation of law.

    Again in a belated move, the Comelec ordered Morales on May 9, 2007, to turn over his post to his vice mayor who was able to sit only from May 9 to June 30.

    Unfazed, Morales ran again in the next election in 2010 and won, but his election was again challenged.

    The poll case reached the Supreme Court, which handed down in 2009 a unanimous verdict saying Morales “was not the duly elected mayor of Mabalacat for the 2004-2007 term” and that he did not serve his full term for that period.

    The High Court said “Morales cannot be deemed to have served the full term of 2004-2007, because he was ordered to vacate his post before the expiration of the term.

    Morales’ occupancy of the position of mayor of Mabalacat from July 1, 2004, to May 16, 2007, cannot be counted as a term for purposes of computing the three-term limit.”

    The tribunal concluded that the mayorship of Morales from July 1, 2007, to June 30, 2010, was “effectively his first term for purposes of the three-term limit rule” for local elective officials.

    “This meant that since the 2004-2007 term was not truly his, although he served most of it, Morales was serving a first fresh term as mayor from 2007 to 2010 and was entitled to reelection for two more terms or up to the 2016 elections, “the court said.


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