A worldwide health plague called Covid-19 and the strongest typhoon to hit Bohol – brought Bohol down to its knees even as authorities scrounged for funds despite having passed the biggest provincial budget in living memory.
The initial economic loss for Covid-19 was already P10-B (government figures) and the enormity of the losses inflicted by the rampaging “Odette” is still being measured with a shocking initial realization.
The two tragedies hugged the Top 2 Biggest stories in Bohol for 2021.
The other big stories touched on the popularly -recognized reported corruption at the Capitol, cases filed related thereto, the role of the Provincial SP in partisan defense of Capitol and the filing of charges by Governor Art Yap against three personalities he accused of being in “conspiracy” to “commit sedition.”
Two stories (No.5) and (No. 7) talk of two important needs of the populace: gasoline and power or electricity. (No. 8) story of an attempt of the Provl SP to buy expensive vehicles amid the pandemic and (No 9)the decision of Rep. Aris Aumentado, not former Cabsec Leoncio Evasco to fight Yap’s reelection bid- complete the stunning array of stories that rocked the senses of 1.3 million Boholanos.
It was the exciting year 2021 was- in a horrible kind of way. This year will never be forgotten.
NO. 1 – “ODETTE” DEVASTATES BOHOL.
Displaying the hot temper of hell and the merciless dumping of water perhaps akin to the Deluge of Noah, “Odette” left the 47 towns and city of Bohol in a state of calamity never before seen due to the wide circumference of the typhoon’s reach.
Seeing the aftermath of the wrath of the storm, saying that “it was like a bomb had been dropped in Bohol” is not a poor assessment; it is close to the truth.
As of press time, the number of deaths is 109 with 61,997 at the evacuation centers and a preliminary assessment of P2.7B in damages defining the tempest “Odette” as brought to our province.
Power cables and cellphone sites were thrown down their spots- leaving much of Bohol in darkness and lack of communication- relatives and friends from outside in a nervous state what has happened to their kind. Power- or its lack- is a “killer” in any economy. When will full power be fully restored? Only the National Grid Corp can state for certain.
To have no homes and be bereft of water, food and clothes is a “purgatory” served on earth and while national government and private sector help from here and abroad have started streaming, Capitol claims it had spent its last P30-M and hankering for help.
No one in their right mind and spirit would not like to help the suffering Boholanos and people look for strong leaders with direction and do not like a sense of despair and fear to engulf them on top of their physical miseries.
While agriculture has been brought close to a death knell, Tourism survived by the sparing of resorts in Panglao largely but operating on generator sets is a challenge on their profit margins and ability to price their packages cheap.
Putting back infrastructure and providing homes will be a tremendous challenge in the next months. Likewise, getting back lost livelihood – coming out of the debacle rising from the previous lockdowns has brought untold miseries upon hundreds of thousands of Boholanos.
Government must serve its mandate to serve the people and not get sensitive when they are asked to do so with transparency since the funds are, after all, from the people’s taxes or if from loans will eventually be paid by the people in some form.
We wish the government the best of goodwill in this “dogfight” of a political situation while our twin enterprise (Chronicle and DYRD) will try to do where we are needed: dissemination of fast information for all and connect donors with recipients as we have done in decades of tragedy-alleviation efforts.
The Year 2022 will be a gravely difficult year even if we continue to wish our readers, advertisers and friends to try to find ways to discover some small specks of silver lining amid this howling darkness. We must help -help ourselves.
NO. 2 COVID PARALYZES BOHOL
It was off-and-on, touch-and-go, and a rollercoaster ride, in general, for most Boholanos as the Covid-19 invaded Bohol in spurts of ferocity and then mildness, leading public policies into a blinding pace of change- confusing people while physically attending to economic loss and depression. Billions have been lost in livelihood and jobs- and the “ayuda” program of the Government is clearly a palliative- not the “real deal” to solve the roots of the malady.
The Government, of course, was in a situation of “balancing” the needs of the medical world for public safety and the people’s “economic” need to be free to earn their living. Many classes and work have been “at home” -and it is not the best way in some cases -we are just coping.
Social distance, masks and shields and antiseptic usage have been standard fare, Not all follow protocol- both the poor and mighty, alike, alas and alack. Business was in a “run and stop” mode- depending on the threat of the virus to infect us.
Except for the new “makeshift” quarantine facility made by the DPWH in a Bohol town, the hospital capacity of the province hardly increased as personnel, management and funds were all focused on daily combatting the malady. Our healthcare system remains vulnerable to the next virus episodes, we hope not -will ever come.
Bohol, like many provinces, played second fiddle to many larger cities and conclaves and got a slower supply of vaccines. But they remain our best defense against the Covid-19.
An “Omicron” variant is now raging – and hopefully- this will be less lethal- though more contagious than the Delta and others. But is this a stage of “endemic” and that like the Spanish Flu- the virus attack will taper off in a total space of two years or so? It is everyone’s fervent wish.
NO 3 STORY: GOV ART YAP DECLARES WAR ON BC-DYRD
Gov. Art Yap, in his first term as Governor, could not stand the heat in the kitchen and called the Chronicle- DYRD to be”part of the Opposition” after the Department of Justice through Margaret Castillo-Padilla sought the “help” of the BCRC Chair Peter Dejaresco (Associate Editor of the BC) and (Station Manager of DYRD) to provide evidence and witnesses on reports reaching their office.
The reports are two (a) the P 50 per cubic meter kickback from quarry operations engineered by a certain “Ivan” allegedly introduced by a Capitol finance employee involving “all quarry operations in Bohol” and (b) the involvement of a certain Edwin Sy and the favored contractor named Muana Construction and Development Corp. based in Cebu which allegedly cornered P 1.67-B of government contracts during Yap’s third district stints and which reportedly continues to lord it over now with Yap as Governor.
Dejaresco replied his name is not affixed in the alleged DOJ complaint and that media is in the “business of providing news and opinion” and “not to file cases”.
Yap extended his fight with the BC-RD group by including Peter Dejaresco in a legal case of “conspiracy” and ” of encouraging sedition” (filed in Makati) alongside former city mayor Dan Lim (who earlier filed a number of cases at the Ombudsman vs. Yap) and a social media critic Willy Ramasola.
Dejaresco and Lim have been “estranged former friends” due to controversies during his term as mayor and that Dejaresco had never met Ramasola in his lifetime. The case is currently being heard. Yap at this point had apparently “burned his bridges” in an attempt to Freeze all criticism launched against his rule. He is not succeeding.
NO 4: CAPITOL/PROVL SP STOPS IVAN INVESTIGATION
The administration found two solutions to thwart the further inquiry into “The Ivan” controversy regarding quarry operations kickback in two ways
(A) Gov. Yap issued Memorandum 2021-11mandating all employees to seek higher office clearance before attending meetings and even SP deliberations. Thus, this prevents Aida Evangelista, of the Treasurer’s Office from attending the SP hearings. She was named by the operators as the person who gave them the cell number of “Ivan” to discuss the quarry formula.” Ivan” was reached by the media in the same number given by the contractors but hastily disappeared when he learned it was media calling him. Flight is guilt.
(B) The Provincial SP said they cannot proceed with the investigation as ” no case” was filed and do not like to “be a party to a fishing expedition.” A photo of the alleged “Ivan” with government personalities has been circulating on social media.
NO. 5 BRANDED OIL PRODUCTS SLASH PRICES
In January 2021, both the provincial and city SPs, started their probe why the branded gas stations in the city were offering P 10 higher prices than the “white” brands. They (Petron,Caltex, Shell) cited higher imposed standards of their mother companies and high rental rates in the city but nonetheless started dropping their prices by P4.
Though not to the full satisfaction, consumers felt the alleviation since prices of gas dictate the prices of most goods and services as almost involve transport activities. Movements of prices of gas remained a concern throughout the year 2021.
NO. 6 : GOV. YAP FACES CASES AT THE OMBUDSMAN
Former city mayor Dan Lim filed cases of plunder, graft and grave dishonesty against Gov. Yap and members of the Bids and Award Committee for the purchase of P 53-M worth of rice from dubious sources, overprice of fuel purchase and illegal grant of a contract to entities on dates past the holding of such actual events. Yap dismissed them as “political harassment” towards the 2022 polls.
Lim also filed cases against the governor and BAW committee members citing 5 “anomalous” contracts amounting to P 114-M involving the purchase of motorcycles, a communication and security system, ambulance, rental of light and sound system and mobile Xrays. Both sets of cases are now pending at the Office of the Ombudsman.
NO. 7: FAILURE OF POWER PLANT BIDDING
Leyte and Negros Oriental have their own sources of power and Bohol has none.. Bohol has thus been at the mercy of the underwater cable connection to Leyte. The quest for better power in Bohol remains in limbo after the One Bohol Power denied the proposal of Solar Phils Power Holdings Inc of the Leviste Group (son of Rep. LorenLegarda). This was due to the failure to provide a power plant that will supply the 10year committed baseload power procurement requirement of 1BP of 83 megawatts.
The ThermaVisayas INC if the Aboitiz Group who submitted an earlier lowest bid- withdrew its bid of February 23, 2021. At that time of writing- if GBP Corp will not make the grade- three other bidders are still in the running: SMC Global Power Holding Corp, Bohol Hydrid Energy Development Corp and the Energy Development Corporation.
No. 8: CAPITOL STALLS VEHICLE PURCHASE
The plan of the Provl SP to buy 14 brand new 4x 4 pickup trucks for the use of the SP members themselves amid the pandemic was halted on its track by severely “adverse” public opinion. They maneuvered and wiggled their way by way of having the Executive offices use them. It should be the tack of the opposition SP membership now to find out by opening sessions whether such purchase was forced through and if the vehicles used by the Executive Department since this would be a wanton violation of the law under the Budget Procedures- both departments being independent of each other.
This violation was affirmed during the Noynoy Aquino administration regarding the DAP. The 14 vehicles cost about over P1-million each.
NO 9: AUMENTADO, NOT EVASCO, TO CHALLENGE ART
Many were expecting that due to the slim win of Gov. Yap over Leoncio Evasco in 2019 by 2,161 votes amid charges of vote-buying and fraud, it was incumbent on Evasco to prove who the “real winner” was. But due to the “personal commitment” of Evasco to the Duterte family, particularly presidential daughter Sara who is now running for Vice President, Evasco had to forego the opportunity to prove his point in favor of strong-running 2nd district Aris Aumentado. He was endorsed by the NP, NPC and Peoples Reform Party.
Aris, basking under the light of the legacy of the late Gov-Rep. Rico Aumentado is serving his last term as the political “wonder boy” Congressman of the 2nd district. Surveys have shown that the result of the Yap -Aumentado tiff could be anyone’s guess.
NO. 10: CONTROVERSIES AT PROVL SP
(A) One controversy hounding the SP is the controversy over providing security to a “prime witness” in the REPA P 1-B Scam that ripped off the pockets of hundreds of Bohoanos. The SP was in quandary as to who should provide “protection” to an important witness in the case. There was also come commotion as some quarters alleged one BM was in receipt of protection money to defend a certain person allegedly aligned with the REPA scam operators.
(B) The second involved Jagna Kagawad opposition Tonton Aniscal who was meted out 3 months without pay suspension for “putting in bad light” Vice Mayor (Dr.) Theodore Abrenilla who Aniscal accused of escaping from his duties as Vice Mayor of Jagna and only reappeared 9 months later. Abrenilla also came home and broke protocol in the process. Aniscal’s charge against fellow Kagawad Arnold Pielago for the latter assaulting him while in session without provocation was “dismissed” by the SP as the charge is ‘not clear”. The attack was seen in full CCTV coverage.
The two cases provided fodder for people to believe that the Provl SP had stained its image for being an overly-partisan body and involved in less than judicious decisions and preferences.
Indeed 2021 was a hot, smoldering year of heart-thumping news if they were not depressing. We all hope for solutions to all problems.
But as we always say- “doing the RIGHT THINGS is as important as doing it RIGHTLY”. God Bless Bohol.
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