As I See It

2 innocent people wrongly accused in media

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During the holidays, I was able to pore through piles of documents that have accumulated in my files and found out, I am sorry to say, that some innocent people have been accused of wrongdoing in media, including Manila-based ones, without their side being heard. Legal documents show, however, that they have been wrongly accused because of politics and because some people are lusting for their positions in the government. But no report about their having been cleared by the government agencies that investigated their cases ever appeared or was aired in the newspapers or radio stations that had accused them. I am writing this to set the record straight and in fairness to those who have been wrongly charged.

Two of them are Mayor Annaliza Gonzales-Kwan of Guiuan, Eastern Samar, and Martiniano Bangcoy, a former priest and now the acting collector of the Port of Davao.

Mayor Kwan was accused of ordering the cutting of a stand of mangroves in Guiuan, while Collector Bangcoy was accused of tolerating smugglers and being inefficient in his job. Both accusations are untrue, as documents showed.

Kwan and a contractor were charged with violating environmental laws for “illegally cutting and destroying” mangroves in a barangay (village) in Guiuan for the construction of a resettlement project. The complaint was filed by several  kagawad  of the barangay. This was published in tabloids and some of the major broadsheets, and broadcast on radio.

The truth: The Department of Environment and Natural Resources investigated the allegation and found the complaint false. There was no mass cutting of mangroves as alleged in the complaint, it declared. The report cited in the complaint was actually the number of mangrove seedlings that have been planted, not cut.

Moreover, the 4.3-hectare area is for a resettlement project of the National Housing Authority (NHA). The local government of Guiuan has nothing to do with it. It is only the beneficiary of the project. The area in Barangay Campoyong was identified as an NHA resettlement project as early as 1995, long before Kwan became mayor. Presidential Proclamation 694, reserving parts of the public domain in Campoyong as resettlement site, was signed by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on Aug. 17, 2000. The NHA funded the project with P22 million. The implementation of the project was done by the NHA. The bidding was done in Manila. The contract was won by Al’s Enterprise and Construction.

But the mayor was charged along with the contractor. Why me, Kwan asked, when I have nothing to do with it?

The answer: Because the mayor is running against the incumbent congressman of Eastern Samar. (I shall not name him, but he is a recent joiner of the Liberal Party from the Arroyo camp.)

Kwan is a three-term mayor of Guiuan and is very popular with the people who urged her to run against the reelectionist congressman. It would seem that the latter is afraid of the popularity of Kwan and therefore has embarked on a black propaganda campaign against her.

Why is she so popular? Because she transformed Guiuan from a fifth-class municipality to a second-class municipality. A CPA (graduate of De La Salle University), she was elected in 2001 as provincial board member with the highest number of votes. She was elected mayor in 2004, and was reelected in 2007 and 2010.

During her incumbency, Guiuan received various awards, among them: Best Financially Managed Government Unit of Region 8 as determined by the Commission on Audit; cleanest town in Eastern Samar in 2004 and until now; the Seal of Good Housekeeping and the Performance Challenge Award, both of which were given by the Department of the Interior and Local Government.

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The charges against Collector Bangcoy—tolerating smuggling and being “inefficient”—are also both false.

The truth: This former priest turned port collector has been one of the top and consistent port collectors of the Bureau of Customs (BOC). He did not just manage to meet collection targets, he surpassed them. At the same time, he seized hundreds of millions of pesos worth of smuggled commodities, in spite of a meager budget and a limited number of personnel.

Among the items he most frequently seized were smuggled rice, onions, poultry and other farm products, home appliances and even luxury vehicles.

His performance has not gone unnoticed. He is the recipient of so many awards and plaques of recognition from the BOC and other industry players and stakeholders, one of them coming from Customs Commissioner Ruffy Biazon himself.

Why the black propaganda against him? Because there are people who want his job. One of them is a rice smuggler posing as a rice dealer based in South Cotabato. He was greatly affected after Bangcoy launched a vigorous campaign against smuggling.

This smuggler even tapped the services of some Manila-based media men to discredit Bangcoy and make it appear that the Port of Davao is a haven of smugglers.

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KAPIHAN NOTES: Today being April Fool’s Day, there will be no Kapihan sa Manila at the Diamond Hotel. The next Kapihan will be on April 8, with former president and now Manila mayoral candidate Joseph Estrada and his running mate, Vice Mayor and former actor Isko Moreno, as guests. The following Monday, April 15, it will be the turn of reelectionist Mayor Alfredo Lim and his running mate, top Manila councilor and also actor Lou Veloso.

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