“When I saw corruption, I was forced to find truth on my own. I couldn’t swallow the hypocrisy.” BARRY WHITE
By Alex P. Vidal
The next story we expect to read in the newspapers would be Senate President Frank Drilon suing former Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) chief Augusto “Boboy” Syjuco for libel. A tit for a tat.
At least that was what the big man of the Philippine senate had promised after he became a recipient of his first-ever plunder case filed by Syjuco in relation to the 1991 construction of the Hall of Justice building in Iloilo City, Drilon’s second graft case in less than a month.
The building, Drilon’s project when he was cabinet official under Pres. Cory Aquino, has been vacated by court employees and judges alarmed by cracks on the walls and floors days after the earthquake in February 2012. It is currently undergoing repair after experts declared it structurally unsound and ordered occupants to abandon the building.
In a Daily Guardian report by Tara Yap dated September 25, 2013, Syjuco alleged sub-standard materials were used in the P100-million building aside from lack of competitive bidding, among other anomalies.
Syjuco alleged further that Drilon plundered some P75 million from the building’s retrofitting when it was damaged by earthquake.
“Our investigation shows about 75 million pesos was lost during these two transactions. First transaction, 200 million pesos plundered by Drilon. Second, 50 million from PDAF (priority development assistance fund) for the retrofitting of the building. Retrofitting is very controversial kasi ayaw ng mga tao na nag-occupy the building. They don’t want to return to this building. Lahat ng galing sa building ayaw na bumalik. Kasi ang sabi ng Department of Public Works and Highways the building should be demolished completely. Pero si Drilon ayaw ipa-demolish, kasi dito makikita lahat ng baho, lahat ng tinago nila na substandard,” report quoted Syjuco as saying.
At first glance, some people will suspect that Syjuco, smarting from the May 13 congressional poll defeat to Drilon’s former lackey, Arcadio Gorriceta, in Iloilo’s second district, has a beef against Drilon and filed the suit as act of vendetta. They could be right. Syjuco suffered double blackeyes after the recent elections. Hardly had the wounds of his election loss were healed, President Noynoy Aquino humiliated Syjuco, who is himself facing graft charges filed by TESDA employees, in the President’s State of the Nation Address (SONA). Syjuco blamed Drilon for his defeat to Gorriceta and the SONA embarrassment was too much to bear.
On the other hand, Syjuco’s plunder case against Drilon shouldn’t be sardonically viewed with absolute skepticism by anti-Syjuco forces; it should be analyzed based on merits and evidence. The Office of the Ombudsman will look into the allegations of fraud based on weight of evidence, paper trail and possible patterns of corruption. Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales won’t give a hoot about the political and personal feuds of protagonists involved in the case. She is mandated by law to resolve the case with utmost objectivity and fairness.
Drilon cannot entirely claim that the graft and plunder cases filed against him are a form of “political harassment” since he is the one now in power while his accusers — Syjuco in plunder case, and Manuel “Boy M” Mejorada in the P15-million graft case in relation to the Iloilo Esplanade project– are no longer connected in government. Did he or did he not steal the taxpayers’ money?
Times are changing. Sometimes we’re up, sometimes down. The wind of political change will not tilt on our favor permanently. Once upon a time Drilon thought he was indestructible, a demigod beyond reproach and a mythical figure in the country’s political landscape. Not anymore today, sir. Time to face the music and read the handwriting on the wall.