Sunday, July 11, 2004

No nepotism, no hidden deals at SBMA’

By Reynaldo M. Garcia

IN a recent installment of his Manila Times’ weekly column, Hanging Habagat, entitled “Nepotism is Tong’s Folly,” Patrick Roxas named several SBMA officials and department managers and alleged that the only reason they were in the SBMA was because of their kinship with Chair Felicito C. Payumo.

Having worked with those named by Roxas, I feel it is my duty to come out with clarifications on the points that he has raised.

First of all, let me state that no Civil Service rules have been broken with the appointment of all people Roxas has named. According to CS guidelines, one must be within the third degree of consanguinity or kinship with the chair before nepotism can be proven.

Being this, no one among the officials named are related to Payumo within the first to third degree of consanguinity.

Let me also assure you that these people are highly qualified and competent to occupy the posts they were appointed to.

The lawyer Sergio Cruz was not appointed by Payumo, but by then President Estrada and the concurrent post that he holds does not give additional compensation. The treasury department of the SBMA can bear this out. The different position he has held is a sign of the confidence and belief in his expertise by the SBMA administration.

Sergio is a UP Law graduate and former governor for Central Luzon of the International Bar Association of the Philippines (IBP). While the lawyer Chito Cruz is a graduate of the Ateneo Law School.

Let me also counter the notion that delinquent SBMA investors are still delinquent to this day, no thanks to the Special Task Force that the SBMA created.

In fact, the Special Task Force has been commended on separate occasions for its achievements, having been able to collect a total of P1 billion in arrearages.

You will have to understand that these delinquent investors have arrears that accumulated from the previous administration. What we have done here is to create an amenable payment scheme, which would both be advantageous to delinquent investors and the SBMA.

Other managers he has mentioned don’t even fall as distant relatives; here are some to clear a few points:

The lawyer, Carlo Cruz, is a graduate of San Beda Law School, where he has also taught, and has authored several law books. He is not related to neither Payumo nor Chito Cruz. SBMA’s fire chief, Apolinar Salang, has been here since the US Navy days and previous SBMA administrations; his experience highly qualifies him for the post he holds.

The tourism manager, Armin Santos, is a former college professor from Olongapo City and is not related to Payumo whatsoever. Former public works deputy, Cesar Adamos, is a local engineer but has now since migrated to the US. Payumo did not know him before he was hired. Dr. Imelda Montemayor, who heads the Health and Welfare Group, is a doctor from Olongapo City. She is not related to the chair.

The contractor that Roxas names as Jun Sayo has never been awarded a bid nor has he actively participated in a bidding here in Subic. This can be checked with the project bidding and awards committee.

Roxas’ column also questions the presence of some businesses supposedly owned by some relatives. To this, let me say these are legitimate business ventures that have gone through the usual process of approval. One of them can be traced to having been related with Payumo within the third degree of consanguinity. In the case of former SBMA chair Dick Gordon, his sister maintained and ran Mountainwoods Inn in the Kalayaan area.

Roxas’ recent hits on the SBMA can be considered a vengeful act for his recent termination as an SBMA consultant.

Roxas’ consultancy was terminated because of a breach of trust with the SBMA, which is why he has been writing all of these negative articles, just at a time when Payumo’s post as SBMA chair is being coveted by a host of aspirants.

What makes this whole thing ironic is that he has pointed to his sources as former SBMA consultant Doring Rocha and employee Robert Pineda, both of whom were also relieved for breach of trust. Rocha and Pineda were terminated for their involvement in the disposal of an old batching plant.

One last point I would like to raise, which is contrary to Roxas’ statements, pertains to the recent privatization of Subic’s power plant. Roxas and his sources claim that there is P5-billion worth of unpaid utilities from some 40 locators here.

First of all, the total trade receivables in the Freeport, including lease rates and services, do not even run up to that figure. As of recent records, there is only a total of P218 million in utility receivables, P16 million of which are utilities incurred by the residential sector and P202 million by locators. These are overall outstanding accounts and not necessarily delinquent.

The privatization move made with the Aboitiz group is now being hailed as a model for other public utilities groups, which are opting for a similar move. The recent acquisition of our power plant by Enerzone, an Aboitiz group, is actually now a model for other public utilities’ privatization. In fact, even the city of Olongapo is contemplating a similar move.

Even before the privatization process pushed through, unpaid arrears from some investors were carefully worked out so that the transition would be made easy, and also to make sure that the deal puts the SBMA at an advantage and not at a losing end.

With the way Roxas is behaving, his former peers here in the SBMA cannot help but think of why he has decided to take this course of action.

His actions only make us see a hatchet job instigated by certain circles wanting to put down the good name rightfully earned by Subic and the people who work here.

(Reynaldo M. Garcia is department manager of the SBMA’s Public Relations Department)

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