Sunday, September 11, 2005

Gordon bares Subic tradeoff, threatens break with Arroyo

By TJ Burgonio, Christine O. Avendaño - Inquirer

ANOTHER trade-off.

Administration Sen. Richard Gordon yesterday threatened to break ties with President Macapagal-Arroyo if the latter rescinds an executive order banning the importation of used vehicles into the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority.

"I hope she doesn't sign it because I am going to leave the President if she allows these cars to go over there," a fuming Gordon told reporters during a briefing at his Senate office.

Gordon expressed suspicion that the planned revocation of Executive Order No. 156 was a tradeoff for Rep. Eulogio Magsaysay's withdrawal of his signature from the impeachment complaint against Ms Arroyo last month.

"Why would he withdraw? Why did he accept P500,000? ... Let's put away our masks," he said, referring to the congressman, who is a nephew of the late President Ramon Magsaysay and cousin of Zambales Gov. Vicente Magsaysay.

"That was used in the impeachment; there's a tradeoff there," he added, claiming that Governor Magsaysay and Rep. Ma. Milagros "Mitos" Magsaysay brought the congressman to the Palace before his turnaround.

"President Macapagal-Arroyo must change her ways if she wants change. She claims she wants change for the people, then [she] should stop politicking. What is needed in our country is transparency and transformational leadership," he said.

The Magsaysays are political opponents of the Gordons. Both Eulogio and Mitos voted "yes" to quash the impeachment complaint against Ms Arroyo.

Gordon, who himself was earlier accused of entering into a tradeoff with the Palace after his prot‚g‚ was appointed to the top SBMA post, couldn't hide his disgust over reports that the Magsaysays managed to coax the President to revoke the EO.

The Magsaysays run the Subic Bay Motors which imports second-hand cars, according to Gordon.

Proof of deal

The senator said he has proof that indeed the Magsaysays had secured a recommendation from the Palace legal office rescinding the EO, particularly a section which bans the importation of used cars into the country.

But the Palace was mum yesterday on Gordon's claims against the administration and his threat to join the anti-Arroyo forces.

Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye refused to make any comment, saying he did not personally hear what Gordon told the media because he was in the Cabinet meeting presided over by the President at that time.

Asked whether the Palace has any plan to repeal the EO banning the importation of right-hand vehicles into Subic as Gordon had claimed, Bunye said he had no information on this.

He instead told reporters to address their queries to the SBMA.

Licuanan resignation

SBMA director Armand Arreza, a Gordon protégé, has been appointed new SBMA administrator by the President, fueling speculations that it was a tradeoff for Gordon's vote against the impeachment of Ms Arroyo if the complaint gets transmitted from the House of Representatives to the Senate for trial.

Ms Arroyo's appointment of Arreza reportedly prompted Francisco Licuanan III to resign as SBMA chair. Licuanan had recommended Roberto Garcia, president of automotive battery maker Ramcar, to the post.

But Gordon has denied that Arreza's appointment was a tradeoff.

A revocation of the EO, which provides for a comprehensive industrial policy for the motor vehicle development program, would virtually open the floodgates to the "smuggling" of used cars in the free port, he warned.

"I'll turn my back because that isn't right anymore. You're asking us to bring in more taxes, have people pay their taxes, but you're allowing smuggling. This is too much. How long will the people have to suffer because of that smuggling?"

The deal between the Palace and the Magsaysays on the revocation of the EO, if true, does not augur well for the country, the senator said.


"That's not good. That's what I've been saying. We can't be transactional. We should be transformational, and not always expect that for every help the President, mayor or governor extends, there's a tradeoff," he said.

The EO's Section 3.1, which spells out the ban on the importation of used vehicles into the country, including the free ports, was declared unconstitutional by the Court of Appeals, according to reports.

"I want the Supreme Court to investigate all these judges and all the people there because it is illegal to import a second-hand vehicle that you convert. You know that, there's a law there. How can they get away with that?" Gordon asked.

"Second, it is a violation of the environment. The fuel leaks into the ground water. Third, they're not paying the right taxes."

Gordon, whose wife Kate was defeated by Rep. Mitos Magsaysay in last year's congressional elections, stressed that his decision to go public with the Palace deal with the Magsaysays had nothing to do with politics.

No choice

"This isn't just about politics," he said, stressing that he got riled by the thought that the government was allowing the "rich people" to get away with smuggling while imposing more taxes on the poor.

Gordon admitted that he would have considered crossing over to the opposition camp if only they had a viable alternative. "We don't have a choice in the other side. That's the problem of the people," he said.

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