“Who is this shadowy Al-Razel Abula?” inquired engineer Leonor Lagsaca of Iloilo City. The column “Mindset of abuse” (Inquirer, 7/30/11) mentioned Al-Razel Abula in passing. With two companions, Abula encashed 41 percent of the checks issued by the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao’s public works office.
“Abula is not a municipal government employee,” notes the Commission on Audit’s report titled, “Selected Municipalities (Trust Fund).” This special audit tracks Abula flitting from town to town and encashing multimillion peso checks, “sometimes even without endorsement by the municipal treasurer.”
In Shariff Aguak, Abula drew P1.48 million. He picked up P1.44 million in Datu Piang. And in Parang, he encashed a P1.54 million Land Bank check.
Abula withdrew cash for a P708,778 check meant for the town of Datu Saudi Ampatuan. “These checks (were) endorsed by Mayor Datu Ombra Sinsuat and another person whose signature was not legible.”
“These transfers were not received by the municipal government,” the COA says. “The encashment of these checks were nonetheless authorized.”
“Will Mayor Ombra Sinsuat tell us who Abula is?” Lagasca asks. “Was Abula collecting for someone else? Who? If he pocketed that cash, did Abula report such extraordinary income to the BIR? Silly question?
“Under Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, the Ombudsman for Mindanao could not be bothered by such questions. But now, there is an upright ombudsman. Will we finally get some answers?”
From Sto. Domingo, Ilocos Sur, lawyer Mariano Tajon commented on the column “Flypaper effect.” (Inquirer, 7/26/11) This spotlighted the diversion by some local governments of the 20 percent Local Development Fund from human needs into pork barrel items.
The Sto. Domingo Sangguniang Bayan didn’t appropriate P795,798.40 from the LDF for development projects. It paid instead for 40 guns of various calibers. These were distributed to barangay captains who were not licensed to possess firearms.
Impounded by the Comelec, the guns were released after elections. “Thus, I filed a case of of technical malversation against the mayor, municipal treasurer and municipal accountant,” Tajon said.
Section 287 of the Local Government Code stipulates that the LDF is to be used exclusively for social, economic and environmental projects. Guns are out. Local Government Memo Circular 2010-138 amplifies this thrust. So does Budget Department’s Circular 2011-1.
Ignoring these guidelines, the investigating prosecutor recommended the dismissal of the complaint. Tajon filed a motion for reconsideration. The outcome will have repercussions on how LGUs administer a vital development resource, a point that new Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales will appreciate.
In Abu Dhabi, Leo Quillo and fellow Filipino workers read the column “Self-applied muzzles.” (Inquirer, 7/23/11)
“Did we err in working abroad?” they wrote. “If we entered politics, we need not put in long hours, scrimp, battle homesickness and the arrogance of foreign bosses, adjust to the quirks of alien co-workers, etc. Instead, we’d just scoop a bit from hundreds of millions flowing from Pagcor’s billion-peso coffee pot, the
PCSO’s intelligence fund, ARMM plunder, overpriced helicopters, etc.”
“How did all these happen?” they asked. “Were there no Heidi Mendozas at that time? It is very disappointing for people like us. We save to acquire a small lot and house back home. Not multimillion-peso mansions, like our politicians.
“How can we pay for a modest house over 3, 5 or even 10 years? What if we lose our job? Or fall ill? We toss such questions in our minds and in conversations. This is how difficult an OFW’s life can be.
“Is there still a chance for our leaders to make a 180-degree turn? We hope P-Noy will really make a difference. Because what’s appearing today are insults to OFWs’ suffering. Most OFWs choose to be fair and decent. Is it too much to hope that our political leaders do likewise?”
“The column ‘Silenced songbirds’ (Inquirer, 7/5/11) reminded me of that seminal work by Rachel Carson, entitled ‘Silent spring,”’ former United Nations forester Napoleon Vergara wrote from Los Baños. Carson wrote about silenced songbirds, chirping insects and other wildlife. Many were rendered almost extinct by the indiscriminate use of insecticides, pesticides, etc. These are lessons that we still have to take to heart.
“Mt. Makiling National Park and the Makiling Botanical Gardens are nature reserves managed by UP Los Baños. They are the largest and best conserved natural and man-made forests. Close to Metro Manila, they attract a lot of local tourists, especially city dwellers and young students who are hungry for ‘a taste of nature.’
“Unfortunately, large segments on the lower slopes of Makiling are in private hands. Travelers along the South Luzon Expressway see the stark contrast between the green, densely forested Makiling National Park and the areas under private control. Makiling’s forest vegetation (and the natural habitat of wildlife) is well conserved. But the intrusion of people has silenced far too many songbirds.
“As a young UPLB student, in the early 1950s, I was thrilled by the cacophony of music made by the large hornbills, the black and yellow orioles, the green and red parrots, the green-breasted doves, monkeys, etc., right within the campus. Now they are silent and gone, victims of unregulated hunting.
“Conservation laws were passed with the best of intentions. But they’re toothless from weak-kneed implementation. Too bad.”
(Email: [email protected])
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