The school building projects in Bohol are done at an impressive rate, according to the Department of Education (DepEd) contrary to a board member’s â€œgrandstandingâ€ on Friday that was short of saying he was the only one left good in the Sangguniang Panlalawigan (SP).
DepEd-Bohol Division superintendent Dr. Wilfreda Bongalos summarized with support figures the school projects implemented by her agency to be 97.2% completed.
But at the SP session on Friday, Board Member Victor Dionisio Balite mounted an offensive at his fellows in the provincial board, capitalizing on his â€œconcernâ€ about a few school projects yet to rise or get finished.
In his privilege speech, Balite accused them of being â€œblind and silent on the oppression long suffered by our Boholano children.â€
He further assailed that because his fellow officials are â€œblind and deaf to needs of our school children,â€ their basic needs have been â€œneglected.â€
Balite is a son of Vice Gov. Dionisio Balite and brother-in-law of the lawyer-mediaman earlier declared by the board in a duly-approved resolution as a â€œpersona non grata.â€
Lawyer-mediaman Salvador Diputado, who hails from Negros, has been deemed an â€œundesirable, unappreciated and unwelcomeâ€ person in Bohol over his published â€œtsismis and lieâ€ about an $81 million bank account of an unknown Bohol official.
While vigilance is welcomed, trying to project oneself as somebody at the expense of others who are faithful to their public calling is â€œgravely distasteful,â€ SP Floor Leader Venzencio Arcamo reacted, referring to Balite’s actuation.
Some other board members were surprised by Balite’s â€œprovoking grandstandingâ€ which they further tagged as â€œgrossly unfairâ€ to the DepEd itself.
He was there at the hearing of the SP Committee of the Whole with the DepEd officials on school project concerns, they said, adding that that meeting was presided by Board Member Elpidio Jala, himself a former DepEd-Bohol chief.
Of the DepEd projects programmed for 2013-2015 involving the construction of 575 classrooms, 530 have been completed to indicate a 92.7% accomplishment rate, Bongalos said.
She added that the implementation of the balance representing 39 classrooms or 6.8% of the total number is continuing and six or .46% terminated while those programmed for 2016 are in progress.
The government terminated certain contracts because the contractors stopped or abandoned their works and the projects should be rebidded, as in the case of a project in Balilihan.
The DepEd projects have been executed on different modes like public-private partnership, as funded by the Quake Response Fund (QRF) and assisted by Pagcor.
To make â€œmore vividâ€ his â€œillustrationâ€ of the supposed neglect, Balite cited the school in Napo, Loon, which was totally ruined during the 2013 strong earthquake, and showed pictures of makeshift classrooms there.
Balite did not research enough to know—that the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) would not issue any clearance to rebuild the school on its original site because of a high geological risk.
Board Member Ricky Masamayor said the municipal LGU had asked the barangay captain to have the school relocated to a safe site near the barangay hall but the captain allegedly rejected the idea.
The barangay official, a woman, is allegedly identified with the political camp to which Balite also belongs and, according to Masamayor, is also a teacher of the school owned by the Balite family.
The high geological risk and related MGB findings affecting certain rehabilitation projects in the aftermath of the great earthquake have also been experienced in Antequera.
Balite likewise presented during his privilege speech the case of the finished Obujan-Tagubaas school in Antequera which has not yet been used.
He did not tell in his speech that it is not of DepEd but rather a project donated by the American Chamber of Commerce (AMCHAM) Foundation, which has yet to turn over the completed work.
Further, Balite accused his fellow officials of â€œinvent(ing) all kinds of excusesâ€ to â€œavoid solving the problemâ€ pertaining to an unfinished improvement project involving a two-storey old building in Hingotanan, an island off Bien Unido.
The project has been deferred as requested by the barangay council and Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) because they wanted to preserve the upper part of the structure.
It was already explained by a DepEd official in the SP Committee of the Whole meeting then that as a policy, the agency would reconstruct only a one-storey building in the case of replacing an old two-storey structure.
Balite questioned why the provincial board did not conduct its last Friday’s session right in Hingotanan island, a part of the Second District, even insinuating that the provincial government must have no concern for the islanders.
Observers thought Balite, a Third District board member, did not mind if he could â€œinsultâ€ Second District Board Member Tomas Abapo, Jr. to who has spent much of his life in public service to bohol.
Abapo had to preside the session when the vice governor, Balite’s father, relinquished and designated him (Abapo) to act in his place, especially when Arcamo stood to interpellate.
â€œSure enough, we can invent all kinds of excuses,â€ Balite assailed even if he did know that the provincial officials had to attend the mass and necrological rites for Monsignor Margarito Gonzaga, a former board member, at the Bohol Cultural Center Friday morning before the SP session.
It was not a political caucus but a wake to pay last respect for the departed priest, also known as Bohol’s â€œchurch builderâ€ and a former town mayor.
But Balite roared in his privilege speech, â€œWe should always remember that minding the future of our children is far more important than minding a patron’s political future.â€
On the part of the school projects implemented by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), the 1st Engineering District completed its programmed works for 2013.
Of the 119 projects programmed for 2014, a total of 118 were completed, representing 99.16%, while the only one remaining project is on-going.
Under the 2015 program, 22 projects were completed, 24 are on-going, and four have yet to start.
Balite also assailed a spring development project in Valencia funded out of a provincial assistance, which he claimed has not been liquidated to date.
Among the Third District’s 19 towns, Balite singled out Valencia, the town of former Vice Gov. Concepcion Lim who is a political enemy of the Balites.
â€œWhy is that so? Is Badiang Spring located along the Pacific Rim that requires four years to construct for fear of tsunami occurrences?â€ Balite blasted.
But according to Provincial Accountant Josette Celocia, the project has already been implemented and only the balances are left for liquidation.
HAUNTING GHOST OF
PERSONA NON GRATA
To many inside the session hall, Balite at the same time obviously wanted his SP colleagues to â€œrealizeâ€ that the board’s declaration of his brother-in-law as a persona non grata would be a â€œghost hauntingâ€ them.
The â€œghost did appearâ€ in the opening of Balite’s privilege speech.
Starting his tirade, he hit the non grata declaration to be â€œfunnyâ€ since â€œwe merely copied what other sanggunians did without considering the fact that we are bereft of any legal authority to pass such a resolution.â€
The declaration against Diputado was not the first persona non grata resolution passed by the provincial board. A â€œsuper-arrogantâ€ foreigner was declared the same years ago.
Balite felt that the collective official action of the SP, the province’s highest policy-making body, on the â€œfalsehoodâ€ peddled by his in-law, Diputado, was â€œanchored on the dictates of political power and influences.â€
Investigating separately, the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) had found out the alleged $81 million bank account of an unknown Bohol official, whom Diputado himself could not identify, to be just â€œpure rumor.â€
The local banking sector dismissed the repeatedly published intrigue, asserting that there was no such singular huge deposit, equivalent to about P4.6 billion, in any Bohol bank by any individual or even corporate entity.
Arcamo countered Balite, saying the board as a sanggunian can express its collective sentiment because if not, Balite’s resolution in the past congratulating and commending the Boholanos in the Duterte cabinet would have been invalid.
The resolution expressing condolences to the bereaved family of the departed Monsignor Gonzaga would have been null and void, Arcamo added.
Balite could not answer at several instances during Arcamo’s interpellation, prompting some colleagues to suspect that Balite’s privilege speech must have been prepared by someone else mad at the provincial board.
Arcamo, Masamayor and Board Member Abeleon Damalerio noted did not question the persona non grata declaration motion was presented in the plenary and even until its passage and approval.
Balite inhibited himself that time precisely bacause Diputado is his in-law and his decision was respected by the rest in the board.
llite was present during the $81 million tale committee hearing but he opted to inhibit and not participate in the inquiry.
At that time, he could also have argued with the other board members in defense of the malicious allegations of his in-law.
Arcamo totally believed that as a parliamentary courtesy, Balite should as well respect the common stance of his colleagues in the legislature not to inhibit.
Passing resolutions and ordinances are a mandate of the SP as a legislative chamber, Arcamo said, adding that any sanggunian can pass a resolution, it being an expression of sentiment, even without a committee report for basis.
The committee report which served as the basis for the persona non grata resolution was clear in its findings and recommendations that Diputado’s constitutional and other mandated rights would not any way be curtailed.
Balite likewise questioned the releases of the Bohol Earthquake Assistance (BEA).
Eighty percent (80%) of the projects under BEA have been completed while the remaining are on-going, according to DILG Provincial Director Loisella Lucino.
The DILG is the national implementing agency for BEA, which projects and sub-projects, except for the bridges, in the municipalities have been implemented by the LGUs themselves.
In the provincial board, Balite demanded a list of all BEA contractors and their contact numbers, among others.
According to some colleagues, Balite, being a responsible Bohol official duly elected by the people, is presumed to have known that the DILG is the national agency handling the BEA and that the LGUs implement the projects and sub-projects.
They believed Balite could directly demand from the mayors, easily from his political allies, all he wants to know, or he may not for fear that the mayors may â€œraise back,â€ feeling insulted and unnecessarily put to public suspect. (Ven rebo Arigo)