Thursday, September 22, 2005

Ex-SBMA chief breaks silence, scores Gordon

The Manila Times Reporter

Former Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority chairman Felicito Payumo broke his silence and lashed at his arch enemy and predecessor Sen. Richard Gordon for including him in the senator’s tirades against the Magsaysays of Zambales.

"I have been quiet for several months since I returned to public life. Why should he include me in his fight against the Magsaysays?" Payumo complained.

Gordon had criticized President Arroyo for engaging in "transactional leadership" that, he said, had benefited the Magsaysays of Zambales. He said the President’s decisions on SBMA would see the return of large-scale smuggling of used cars in the free port that was seen in the last three years. Payumo was chairman and administrator of SBMA from 1998 to 2004.

"If there really was smuggling of used vehicles in Subic, why blame me? That is the responsibility of the customs? The fact is, the courts have already allowed the entry of right-hand vehicles in Subic although Gordon insists on calling it smuggling," Payumo said.

He said that he would not be a willing victim to Gordon’s "vendetta." He noted that Gordon had subpoenaed voluminous documents from the SBMA pertaining to his term of office but omitted those during Gordon’s term from 1992 to 1998.

"This is highly selective and a fishing expedition under the guise of legislation," he said.

Payumo said that Gordon had allowed the importation of numerous brand-new luxury cars, which avoided the payment of proper tax by merely incorporating some jump seats.

"There was also the report of the Commission on Audit which disallowed almost P855 million of SBMA expenditures during his term. The commission found only about P1.6 million in unliquidated expenses during my term," he said.

The Office of the Ombudsman has thrown out the criminal case against Gordon involving the disallowed expenditures but the commission is standing pat on its findings.

"Gordon was crowing about the SBMA volunteers, but among the disallowed expenses were hundreds of millions of pesos for personnel. Hundreds of the ‘volunteers’ were on the payroll, but none of them received any money," Payumo said.

The rivalry between Payumo and Gordon started when Gordon refused to open the Bataan-side gate of SBMA for workers from that province. This reached its highest point when Gordon refused to yield the SBMA chairmanship to Payumo. It continued even now that Payumo is no longer with SBMA and Gordon’s main political enemies now are the Magsaysays.

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