“Politics have no relation to morals.”
By Alex P. Vidal
In 2001 when former Iloilo fifth district Rep. Neil Tupas Sr. became governor of Iloilo, we earned the ire of some members of the Tupas clan when we regularly criticized Mrs. Myrna Tupas for her “imposing” presence inside the governor’s office in the old capitol building.
We were informed that future board member and now Iloilo fifth district Rep. Neil “Junjun” Tupas Jr., then a practicing private lawyer in Manila and the eldest son of the governor and Mrs. Tupas, was irked and decided to come home to find out who were his mother’s media critics.
Mrs. Tweety Tupas-Balleza, the family’s lone princess, also went ballistic and was ready to confront her mom’s tormentors with a scythe. Like her mom, Tweety was also one of her father’s executive assistants.
Junjun recommended the filing of a libel case against this writer (it was the congressman who admitted this to me personally several months later when we became friends).
We covered and interviewed Gov. Tupas Sr. on many occasions during his stint in the House of Representatives from 1987 until 1998, and Mrs. Tupas when she was mayor of Barotac Viejo, Iloilo in the early 90s. We were familiar with their character toward the media. They’re not onion-skinned.
It’s normal for Mrs. Tupas, being a mother and a first lady to boot, to be emotional sometimes, but, like her husband, she did not harbor any grudge against journalists. They were aware that as public servants, they couldn’t escape public scrutiny. Constructive criticisms from members of the Fourth Estate were part and parcel of their jobs.
The media criticism went on unmolested. No journalist was hauled to court as what lawyer Junjun had vowed. I couldn’t go near the governor’s office without getting dagger looks from capitol minions who mistook the media’s adversarial role in society for personal enmity.
Weeks later, I received a call from Sara Mayor Neptali “Tali” Salcedo asking me to meet him at a Chinese restaurant inside Atrium Mall.
When I arrived, a smiling Salcedo went straight to the point without much ado: “Noy, indi man pagpatam e si nonoy Myrna ay. Maayo ina sia nga babaye. Maayo ina ang pamilya nila. Gin hambalan ko si Junjun nga si toto Alex abyan ta ina. Migo ko gid ina kag permi ina sa Sara.” (Please slow down on nonoy Myrna. She is a good woman. Their family is great. I already told Junjun that you are a friend and you always visited Sara).
Salcedo’s appeal was not anymore necessary because Mrs. Tupas had already decided to take a low profile role and her presence inside the governor’s office was not anymore “intimidating”, to say the least.
But Salcedo’s gesture was earnest and classic. He went out his way like an ordinary peace emissary to intercede for the embattled queen.
When Junjun ran for congressman in the fifth district of Iloilo against his cousin, Enrique Suplico Jr., in May 2007, he personally requested from me to send at least two reporters to monitor the alleged terrorism and cheating in Sara.
Junjun and Salcedo were no longer allies. The Tupases and the Salcedos have severed their political ties. Salcedo sided with outgoing congressman Rolex Suplico, who decided to field his elder brother, Enrique Jr. against Junjun.
Junjun massacred Enrique Jr. He retained the congressional post when he walloped Rolex in 2010. Junjun miserably lost in Sara but swept Rolex in almost all towns in northern Iloilo. With the Suplicos wiped out, Salcedo became orphaned politically.
The stormy relationship between the two hitherto political allies developed from bad to worse when Junjun charged Salcedo and three others for alleged overpricing of fuel and lubricants before the Office of the Ombudsman.
Last June 24, the anti-graft court issued the arrest warrants for violation of section 3 (e) of Republic Act 3019 (Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act).
The three Salcedo aides were Municipal Treasurer Edna Pacrim, Municipal Engineer Roel Salcedo and Municipal Accountant Edgardo Beatingo.
The Commission on Audit (COA) reportedly found excess payment of P153,721. The actual cost of fuel consumed was only reportedly P846,279 for 10 different projects.
The respondents also reportedly faced 30 counts of malversation of public funds through falsification of public documents over the doubtful release of P1,834,400 for the labor payroll.
Indeed, in politics there are no permanent friends.