By BenCyrus Ellorin
UNTIL she surfaces, speculations will be that the person whom Misamis Oriental Gov. Bambi Emano contracted is a dummy, if not fictitious.
Otherwise, why hide? And why is the governor seem to be on the run after his contract with Nueva was made public?
After spewing vitriolic words against his political arch-nemesis when city hall intimated it might move to clear the roads around the capitol from obstructions in keeping with the President’s order, the governor, has been shy, mum and unavailable on the matter.
First, he traveled abroad—either in Australia, by some accounts, or the US by another account. After that, as I write this, he is out of the country again; he is reportedly in Vietnam.
Second, unlike his first travel in two months, he left a spokesperson on the issue, Carlo Dugaduga, who was gracious enough to try his best to answer queries by the media on the issue. But as I write this, even Dugaduga is on leave and the governor left no one to speak for him about capitol matters while he is away.
One legal question raised about the Emano-Nueva lease contract is on the failure of the governor to get the approval of the provincial board.
The previous governor, now Mayor Oscar Moreno, had faced the specter of ouster because of the Ajinomoto case. The legal question, in that case, was the alleged illegal action of Mayor Moreno in entering into a contract that resolved a tax assessment case with Ajinomoto without the expressed approval of the city council.
The rest is history—the Court of Appeals struck down the ombudsman’s ruling that slapped Moreno with removal from office and perpetual disqualification from public office as maximum administrative penalty. The CA, in its ruling, said the contract in the tax assessment case of Ajinomoto was a function of the local treasurer who was an employee under the Bureau of Local Government Finance-Department of Finance whose main task is to exercise the state’s power of taxation in local governments. As such the tax assessment settlement didn’t need the approval of the local legislature.
Now, Emano is facing the same legal issue—for entering into an agreement with a certain Nueva without the approval of the provincial board in 2013. It is however unlike the Ajinomoto case in that it’s not about taxation but about leasing out a property being claimed by the provincial government.
But that is not the only legal issue. A contract with parties who are not natural or juridical persons is illegal, and using an unauthorized alias is could get one in big trouble.
I disagree with those who say that the Emanos believe they are beyond the reach of the law and that they have a way of going around the law. I disagree because Emano’s father, the late ex-governor, was removed from office after the Comelec found fraud in his 1995 election victory against Ruthie Guingona who was subsequently proclaimed the rightful winner in the gubernatorial elections.
The younger Emano’s reign in the capitol is not all smooth sailing. Intramurals have rocked the provincial government’s bureaucracy. One of these incidents was the resignation of a trusted political lieutenant and political strategist. The departure of this officer in 2015 was said to have been caused by certain actions of “another” powerful capitol official. This “another” capitol official was said to have flown the coop to skirt further scrutiny on issues about the capitol’s finances, among others. This former official is said to be ensconced in Canada now.
Were the governor’s leaves of absence and silence on the merits of the Nueva contract acts meant to buy out time, roll with the punches, hoping the public amnesia would set in as soon as possible? Is the governor now on a soul searching after realizing he has been stuck with the goods and taking the blame?
Who and where is Nueva? The use of fictitious characters has proven to be the Achilles’ heel of at least two Presidents — “Jose Velarde” during the time of President Estrada, and “Jose Pidal,” the alias given by a mysterious bank account holder that significantly weakened the administration of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Even the coming out of the then First Gentleman Mike Arroyo’s brother, Iggy Arroyo, who owned up the Jose Pidal, accounts did not assuage public opinion in their favor.
In this Nueva issue, the governor needs to cut clean and clear. Or is his silence and flight portent of things to come?
(Bencyrus Ellorin is a former journalist.)