By NITZ ARANCON
REELECTIONIST Councilor Zaldy Ocon went public with a 2014 complaint for estafa against mayoral candidate Jose Gabriel La Viña, and an exposé of an alleged attempt to overprice “media placement” packages when he was a commissioner of the Social Security System (SSS).
Ocon dropped the bombshells as he spoke during the first rally of the PDP-Laban on Saturday, the second day of the election campaign period for local candidates.
After the rally, Ocon said he brought the matter to the public’s attention to point out that La Viña has been slapped with a complaint, too, and that his brief stint as SSS commissioner was marred by a controversy.
“La Viña keeps on accusing the mayor of stealing and even calls him a thief even when no court has found the mayor guilty. For the record, the mayor has not been convicted in court, and many of the cases against him have been dismissed. If La Viña’s basis of guilt is a mere complaint against the mayor, then using his own standards, how should we call him now based on the complaint for estafa against him? This is the point: Look who’s talking,” Ocon said in Bisaya.
He pointed to a March 24, 2014 complaint filed against La Viña by one Anna May Singh Timbol of Cubao, Quezon City, with the Quezon City Prosecutor’s Office.
In the complaint, La Viña was accused of inducing Timbol into buying his majority shares in two corporations — Kia Diliman Inc. and Texhoma Trading Corp. — for P22 million “through false pretenses and deceit executed prior to and simultaneously with the fraudulent transactions.”
Reads part of Timbol’s complaint: “I am suing La Viña based on Article 315(2) (a) of the Revised Penal Code which punishes ‘any person who shall defraud another by using fictitious name, or falsely pretending to possess power, influence, qualifications, property, credit, agency, business or imaginary transaction, or by means of other similar deceits.’”
La Viña’s liaison with the media, Nicole Managbanag, said the former SSS commissioner has denied Timbol’s accusations and called it “tomo-tomo” (fabricated).
Managbanag said La Viña has documents to show that would refute Timbol’s allegations. She said La Viña is willing to go public with his documents anytime.
In a statement, La Viña said the estafa complaint filed against him never went beyond the prosecutor’s office where it was dismissed.
“In contrast, Ms. Singh’s [Timbol’s] daughter is currently on trial for two criminal cases filed by the fiscal [prosecutor]: for perjury and falsification of public documents. In any case, all these were a result of a private transaction that did not involve any government agency or funds,” La Viña said.
During the Saturday rally, Ocon also questioned La Viña’s alleged proposal for SSS to buy airtime from four Manila-based broadcast companies, and a newspaper for some P26.095 million when he was serving as SSS commissioner.
According to Ocon, documents in his possession would show an attempt to overprice the “media placement” packages of radio stations DzRH, DzBB, DzMM, DzRJ, and Malaya Business Insight by P13.550 million in 2017.
Ocon said the same packages, based on the rates of the radio stations and publication, only cost P9.395 million.
Ocon said the proposal was one of the reasons why La Viña’s appointment as SSS commissioner was not renewed by President Duterte.
Managbanag said there was no wrongdoing on La Viña’s part because that was merely a proposal.
“Wala gyoy anomaly ana kay wala man kana madayon, proposal man lang kana,” said Managbanag, adding that the proposed P26-million deals were part of SSS’ P300-million advertising budget that was already set aside even before La Viña became an SSS commissioner.
La Viña said, “The SSS allegations are old rehashed propaganda by the SSS ‘Mafia’ after I filed several criminal and administrative cases against them. Not a single case has ever been filled by them against me, something they would have definitely done by now if there was any basis to do so.
“In fact, the President has long cleared me of these allegations, promoting me instead to undersecretary of Tourism and then undersecretary of [Agriculture],” he said.
La Viña maintained that he has no graft and corruption case as shown by the clearances from the Office of the Ombudsman, Sandiganbayan and Civil Service Commission.
La Viña also asserted that he is President Duterte’s “one and only” mayoral candidate in the city and that the Chief Executive rejected Mayor Oscar Moreno at the rally of PDP-Laban senatorial candidates in the city two weeks ago. Duterte has yet to give a categorical statement about his choice for the city’s mayoral post.
Meanwhile, Moreno said he sees the escalation of a vilification campaign against him because his opponent “has nothing significant to offer to the people of Cagayan de Oro City.”
“I will not stoop down to the gutter, foul and uncouth language and behavior of my main opponent, but let me put to question his person, his character and what had he done because this drives to the core of governance – ang pagka matinud-anon, honesty, integrity and performance,” said Moreno in a statement sent to media outlets.
On the cases he is facing, Moreno said all are baseless, unfounded and are meant to drag him down.
City administrator Teodoro Sabuga-said there remains only 16 of about 100 cases filed against the mayor, and there has never been a court conviction.
“Because they have nothing against the mayor, they trumped up charges against Mayor Moreno. They weaponized legal cases for politics which is generally bad for our justice system,” Sabuga-a said.