Plundering Bacolod’s treasury-4

NOW that the Bacolod councilors who approved the authority for Mayor Evelio Leonardia to borrow P1.7 billion from the Development Bank of the Philippines have published their position on the matter, the issues are joined. Their cards are on the table and it is for us in the public arena to consider the validity, reliability and credibility of their claim; most importantly whether their assertions are within the bounds of what is true- the moral standards that go above and beyond legality or their self-designed norms and rules.

In the public mind, the question that prevails is not merely whether the action or decision is legal but above all whether it is moral or even the most important. Indeed what is legal is not necessarily moral especially when that moral standard was offered as a bond in the solicitation of public trust during the election campaign. Truly it is said, that public office is a public trust and those who betray that trust should not be in public office – the decent ones resign.

Their response was timely. We can discuss the issue based on the allegations of the two councilors and the joint claims.

We can assume that this reply is official although not all the councilors who approved the application joined in the public statement. I wonder, however, whether their statement was also furnished the DBP or this is just for public consumption. If they had a different response to DBP then perhaps they can also publish it.

Anyway, I waited for a counter response of Gamboa and Puentevella but I guess they have nothing more to add to their letter to DBP. So let us bring this matter into the public square because the main defect of this transaction is lack of transparency that gives it an aura of cabalism, an anathema in public affairs.

The majority councilors’ made an omnibus claim of their defense:  all the procedures had been followed and complied with in accordance with the law, citing primarily the Local Government Code. With four lawyers in the council who approved it, that is a superfluous declaration but a defense nevertheless.

They say it was approved by the majority of the councilors, not necessarily a unanimous vote, which is correct and need not be said but it is a defense just the same as if a majority is always right, like speaking ex cathedra.

They also claim the law does not require a public hearing but they were gracious enough and they did call for one “just to ensure that all the processes and requirements were strictly complied with”. We assume from this statement that everybody in that public hearing was informed that everything was “strictly” above board and nobody complained. Ergo everything is unquestionable.

The statement also said that the “technical experts” of the city agencies concerned “painstakingly studied the feasibility of these projects and their necessity since 2017.” They added that the city Development Council “approved these projects, and even the minority in the council had agreed to these projects.” Can we assume the approval of projects included the P1.7-B loan?

What the “experts” studied and apparently approved is not clear or categorically stated, but the incomplete information creates the impression that this loan was accepted even by the minority, meaning Gamboa and Puentevella included.

Indeed, their joint statement tended to craft a belief that everybody agreed to this loan because they said the “SP had debated since mid-2018 to grant the mayor the authority to negotiate with then DOF and any other government financing or banking institutions…”

So why are these two complaining? Were they asleep during the deliberation or effectively distracted and eased out? Should they not explain because they are made to look like they did not study the projects while it was still being debated?

Notice how the two opposition councilors are being painted as sleeping on their job as, well, opposition. The joint statement claims that the SP had approved “more than seven resolutions relative to the four flagship projects…therefore it was not made in haste. It was “thoroughly discussed and debated upon, and all the requirements required by law had been complied with.”

The generalized defense of the joint statement shows that the councilors are cocksure they need not tell the whole truth. Let’s start dissecting the joint response on Monday.

 

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