Aguilar mayor surprised at his suspension

DAGUPAN CITY — Mayor Ricardo Evangelista of Aguilar, Pangasinan said here today he was surprised to have learned that he was being suspended from office by the Ombudsman for a complaint against him that he did not know about.

“I was surprised. I did not know that there was a complaint against me,” Evangelista said in an interview over Aksyon Radyo here.

He said he never received any subpoena to allow him to answer the charges and he just learned about the complaint when the Department of the Interior and Local Government provincial office in Lingayen town served his supension order last Saturday.

The Ombudsman ordered the preventive suspension of Evangelista four months for alleged dishonesty and misconduct arising from his alleged irregular disbursement of the town’s special education fund.

“It happened so fast,” Evangelista said.

From the documents he received, he said he learned that the complaint was filed against him in Nov. 13 last year and within two months, he was already being suspended.

He also said the complaint against him was politically motivated because the complainant, Priscilla Villanueva, a supervisor of the Department of Education, is the aunt of Vice Mayor Cesar Villanueva.

“Definitely, there’s politics here because the supervisor and the vice mayor are close relatives. She also has other relatives who ran against me and lost in the 2004 elections,” Evangelista said.

Evangelista, who is now on his second term, ran under the opposition Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino while the vice mayor ran under the banner of the administration’s Lakas-CMD party.

But he said his suspension will not stop him from seeking reelection in the May elections because, he said, he still has the support his constituents.

He also said he has padlocked his office in the Aguilar municipal hall for fear that his detractors “might put something there that may be used against me.”

Evangelista also appealed for sobriety to his supporters. “Let us keep our town peaceful and orderly,” he said.

COA clears San Carlos mayor of anomalous deals

SAN CARLOS CITY – The Commission on Audit has cleared Mayor Julian Resuello of any wrongdoing in various city government transactions, which were enumerated in a complaint against him here.

In a report released today, the COA Legal Adjudication Office, which formed a special audit team, said the complaint of one Carlito Naval of this city was baseless because the audit team did not find any anomaly in any of the transactions.

The report was signed by Carlos Francis Santiago, team leader of the special audit team.

In his complaint, Naval said that the city government renovated the old city mayor’s office for P500,000 without the benefit of a contract; bought heavy equipment vehicles for P60 million; and built a P7-million shed inside its new public market.

He also said that the Resuello bought 24 overpriced motor vehicles, which were used by the mayor’s relatives; and received an unrecorded donation of P500,000 for the construction of a waiting shed in front of the plaza.

Naval had identified six other alleged anomalous transactions by the city government but the COA said that these had been sufficiently addressed by Regional Cluster Director Caesar Ramirez of the COA regional office in San Fernando City in La Union, who had earlier acted on Naval’s complaint.

On the renovation of the mayor’s office, the audit team said that contrary to Naval’s allegation, the repair was implemented under a contract dated Nov. 28, 1998, which was entered into by the city government and Val Cruz Construction and Supply in the amount of P644,011.15.

“The team also inspected the repair works and found the items to be in accordance with those in the contract,” the report said.

On the purchase of heavy equipment worth P60 million, the COA said that it evaluated the city’s inventory of construction and heavy equipment and found that the city had 22 heavy and light construction equipment, including five mini-dump trucks.

“Apparently, these had a total cost of P23,250,000,” the audit team said. “Canvass and evaluation showed the purchase prices to be reasonable, being lower than the average prices,” it added.

The audit team also found that the city government did not disburse any amount fro the construction of a waiting shed inside the new public market.

It added that the city government bought 20 four-wheeled vehicles, tricycles and motorcycles. But the audit team said that after evaluating of the prices of the vehicles, it did not find any overpricing.

It also found that based on memorandum receipts covering the questioned vehicles, these are assigned to various offices of the city government and the Philippine National Police.

On the unrecorded donation of P500,000 for the construction of a waiting shed, the audit team found that the structure was built in two phases for a total cost of P994,052.40. The first phase cost P498,552.40 and the second phase was worth P495,500.

But it said that although it did not find any appropriation, contract or record in the city’s books of account, the team believed that Resuello acted “in good faith” in not immediately recording the donations.

“In order to avoid doubts on the accuracy of the city’s financial statements and misapprehension by the public, it is recommended that all donations …must be accounted for and recorded in the books as government funds,” the COA said.

Agbayani breaks silence on senatorial draft

LINGAYEN, PANGASINAN – Gov. Victor Agbayani has finally broken his silence on the inclusion of his name in the administration’s senatorial slate in the May elections.

In a news release, Agbayani said he is honored to be included in the slate “as this may represent acknowledgment of all the work we have done in Pangasinan.”

“[But] this needs careful study. For one, I will need to consult our leaders in the province to determine how or in what capacity they would wish me to continue to serve,” Agbayani, who is on his last term, said.

Last Sunday, Speaker Jose De Venecia, told local media practitioners in Manaoag, Pangasinan that Agbayani was among those who have been recommended by administration coalition leaders in the senatorial line up, which included Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, also a Panagsinense.

De Venecia said Agbayani and Duque are “credible names, young people.”

Agbayani had earlier been reported that he would be running unopposed in the province’s second district, in exchange for his support to the gubernatorial bid of Rep. Amado Espino, who still has one term in the district.

But Agbayani said the reports are “baseless and untrue,” adding that he has not endorsed yet any congressman or any candidate for governor.

Agbayani also said that he has begun a process of consultation with grassroots leaders to get a consensus on what course of action he would take.

Five names crop up in Pangasinan?s gubernatorial race

DAGUPAN CITY – Two congressmen, a vice governor, a former police general; and the doctor-wife of the governor may slug it out in a free-for-all gubernatorial race in Pangasinan this May.

Pangasinan’s second district Rep. Amado Espino Jr. had told newsmen here he has been aiming for the gubernatorial seat, which will be vacated by Gov. Victor Agbayani, who is now on his last term.

“It’s still an option and I’ve been preparing for it,” Espino, who is now on his second term, said.

Sixth district Rep. Conrado Estrella III, despite reports he had decided to seek reelection for his last term in his district, has not “completely dropped out of the race yet.”

“He is still considering running for governor,” an Estrella supporter, who requested anonymity, said.

Vice Gov. Oscar Lambino, for his part, said any vice governor “would like to become governor someday.”

“So, since it’s already my last term, and the governor is also in his last term, my direction is towards the governorship,” Lambino, provincial chair of the administration Lakas Party, told the Inquirer.

Former police director general (now National Irrigation Administration chief) Arturo Lomibao said that his gubernatorial bid is still on.

“Tuloy ang laban (The fight is still on),” Lomibao said in a text message.

On the candidacy of Agbayani’s wife, Jamie Eloise, a doctor, the provincial information office in Lingayen said in a news release Wednesday that there is a “growing clamor for the governor to field his wife to ensure the continuity of the governor’s development programs.”

Local newspaper columnist and political analyst Gonzalo Duque said that to win the gubernatorial race, a candidate must be able to get the blessings of the administration.

“If you are with the administration, you will certainly win because this is a local fight where machinery is very important,” Duque told the Inquirer.

All of the possible candidates, however, have been aligned with the administration. Espino is a member of the Kabalikat ng Mamamayang Pilipino (KAMPI), a political party identified with resident Arroyo.

Estrella ran under the opposition Nationalist People’s Coalition, but he has been perceived to be supportive of Mrs. Arroyo.
Agbayani, likewise, is aligned with the administration as Lakas co-chair.

With this possible gubernatorial race scenario, Duque said Pangasinan may be declared a free zone.