Please Help Quezon

Privatized Intelligence And Discretionary Funds

Annually, the local chief executive has the calamity fund, the gender fund, the intelligence fund, and the fun funds (the 20% development fund parlayed at the unfettered discretion of the LCE).

The Intelligence Fund can be spent without any control whatsoever and the COA looks the other way. If there has been any intelligent study made on how the intelligence fund was spent by LGUs from 1988 up to the present, the amount would be staggering. And yet we are still in the middle of a pestering insurgency. Illegal gambling has kicked out a President, and raids and arrests on Illegal Drugs go undiminished. Illegal logging shaved the forests clean off our mountains. Illegal quarries disfigure the contours of Mt. Banahaw. But these pestering problems are still with us.

Environmental rape heaped untold misery to Quezon Province. Mother Nature says, “it’s payback time”. Unfortunately, the culprit is enjoying his holidays in Alabang and when nobody’s looking, in the USA. While the Aumentados, the Bungugs, the Tamares, the Manuguids, the Sors, and thousands of others in Real, General Nakar, and Infanta bury their dead.

If the intent of the intelligence fund is to minimize if not eradicate these menace, the local government is a failure. And this mindless expense is one cause of our hemorrhaging public coffers, sinking us into fiscal crisis.

Awashed with funds, the LCEs lavish the poor with palliative programs like medical missions, fiesta celebrations, free movie admissions to the senior citizens (with cheap cakes on their birthdays), seminars to lower echelon local officials, Sangguniang Panlalawigan lakbay-aral in Boracay,  etc.

Emptied Intelligence Fund

In Quezon experience, the sitting governor has enjoyed unliquidated Intelligence Fund since 1998. While the fund has been disbursed, nothing was given as to where it went after all these years. At last count, the spent IF has amounted to P20M.

One million Board Feet in 2002

Quezon is still a repository of vast yet fast dwindling forest. Land travel to Infanta is a marvel. But Northern Quezon is one place plagued by illegal loggers. At one time in 2002 the DENR discovered an estimated one million board feet of logs floating along Agos River in the town of General Nakar. Magandang Gabi Bayan even made a documentary of the incident. When the President and the DENR Secretary visited Quezon soon after, and asked the sitting governor for some explanations, the latter resented the inquiry and drifted to the opposition. Finally, some figures leaked from the office of the provincial chief that the logs are in the vicinity of 300,000 board feet only and not one million. Eventually the timbers disappeared. The logs were seen spirited away on province-owned dump trucks in the dead of night.  It is still a puzzle why the Office of the President has not done anything against the Quezon sitting official.

Ten  Million Board Feet in 2004

After the Winnie and Yoyong rampage recently, logs were seen drifting along the coasts of Infanta and Real estimated at ten million board feet. This does not include the covers cleared by the kaingiros and the so called legal cutters with special permits given by the DENR. If indeed the LGU particularly the province is after environment protection, the timber felling would have been arrested. P20M in intelligence fund is enough to jail the poachers. And the results of the typhoons’ brunt minimized.

Dwindling Intelligence

In Quezon, anything that has the term “intelligence” on it is pocketed by the sitting provincial official. We have the Intelligence Fund, and the Inteligencia from jueteng, such that even the Intelligence in the IQ of school children is being coveted by the wheel-chair bound official. Expect the plummeting IQ of Quezon school children, thanks to the provincial official.

GREEN CIRCLE LAND DEVELOPER?

The owner of Green Circle claims that it is a land developer. It has on its drawing board an area close to 80.000 hectares up for development as the Eastern Seaboard of the Philippines. It claims that it has a title on 30,000 hectares it bought from a private owner. As to the remaining 50,000 it says it acquired the same thru public bidding from the Quezon provincial government for non-payment of real property tax allegedly paying the land taxes in arrears for the last 30 years.

We are not aware of any move from the provincial government initiating aggressive land taxes collection. In fact it has not touched the two power plants particularly Mirant Power in collecting the unpaid land tax of P5B. The alleged public auction in General Nakar did not come to the attention of the public as there was no officially published public bidding. Nor was there any authorization from the Sangguniang Panlalawigan directing the provincial treasurer to embark on the land tax collection as what it did previously when the former authorized the provincial governor to represent the province in the pre-trial in the case brought by Quezon Power Plant questioning the assessment made by Mario Diamante, the Mauban Assessor. Later on because of the furor of payola in December 2001, the provincial governor returned the authority which the Sangguniang Panlalawigan readily accepted.

How can GC validly claim that it has paid the land tax in arrears for the last 30 years on the 50,000 hectares when its banker-lawyer owner Atty. Romeo Roxas knew full well that an LGU can only collect the outstanding land tax for the last five years only? The unpaid land tax corresponding to the first 25 years can no longer be collected due to statute of limitations. An LGU can only collect for the last 5 years. That is the reason why a local treasurer can be indicted for dereliction of duty it he fails to collect property taxes for more than 5 years without any valid cause.

This writer knows exactly how big 8,000 hectares are since it is an area removed from the territorial jurisdiction of Quezon Province by Camarines Norte comprising the 9 barangays of Calauag thru the sheer negligence of the sitting governor. Those 8,000 hectares is ten percent of the 80,000 hectares up for development purportedly by GC. If it’s only 5,000 to 10 hectares that GC will develop as what it claims to be, it looks believable.

The development mantra is a subterfuge to cut logs in the delineated area. GC justifies cutting in line with its alleged development blueprints. How many hectares are reserved for streets and highways, airports and seaports, land settlements, government infrastructures, etc? In the meantime that the financing for the entire mumbo jumbo is on the lender banks’ table waiting for discussion, the cuttings begin. Not only are we made the basket case for an environmental ruin, they mistake us as nincompoops.

Illegal Quarry

Don’t tell us we didn’t post this warning.

Unmitigated illegal quarries in the towns of Sariaya, Dolores, Mauban, and Sampaloc are standby tragedies.

Sariaya and Dolores are two favorite sites of the legal quarries because of the superior quality of the aggregates there. Taiwanese investors flocked to Sariaya and Dolores and are now engaged in over quarrying. This industry now is over crowded. While they were given Quarry permits by local environment officials, encroachment upon river beds and the protected Mt. Banahaw slopes are unchecked. Theoretically revenues from quarrying go to the provincial coffers. Yet the Quezon official looks the other way where there are over quarrying. Over quarry is a cause for worry of the barangay folks especially in Bgy. Sampaloc 2. These quarry operators destroy the environment by not only engaging in indiscriminate diggings but they cut vegetation along the way as well. Only after one full year did transport return to normal. In REINA some fear it will take 5 to 10 years before it gets on its feet. Word has it that Quezon Province is short of funds and has no more means to allot the 5% Calamity Fund. The last centavo of the province was poured in the impact project Quezon Medical Centre, a P700M edifice that the sitting official is bent on completing by the end of his term in 2007. Go figure the retirement manna of the lucky provincial official. Last week, the governor called on the Mayors to a special meeting with no announced agenda.

Complaints arising from these illegal activities are well documented and yet they go unabated nothwithstanding the availability of the much coveted Intelligence Fund.

Quezon Sports Foundation

Recipient of Quarry Revenues

The sitting governor while glued on his wheelchair was humored by some sports aficionados to put up a foundation. Of course, the local official knows that a foundation is tax free. He was able to escape for now payment of a gargantuan estate tax by converting the estate of his ascendant into an educational foundation. He was extremely pleased that by fronting QSF he could skim the revenues from quarry operators. Instead of putting the provincial environment officer at the helm in the collection of quarry tax and penalties, he appointed a private person who, it appears, represents a group of quarry owners. The catch is, they go in apprehension rampage of illegal quarry operators and slap huge penalties. The operators naturally come across by bargaining for a lesser amount. The point man then issues receipts of QSF purporting that the quarry magnanimously donated to the sports foundation. The QSF receipts however sports the office of the local official and his phone numbers in the Provincial Capitol. Greedy people sometimes become stupid. A list of the checks payable to QSF and receipts including schedule of payees and the their amounts has reached concerned citizens and they are poised to hale the geniuses including the private directors of QSF for conspiracy to the Ombudsman for plunder as the amassed collections have reached the magic figure of P50M. Notice that the Province of Quezon has a franchise team funded by QSF in a budding basketball league.

At the height of typhoon Yoyong, the sitting provincial official was in Cebu enjoying a basketball game of his team and its weather. While scores of others were trapped in Real’s Repacor building at the height of Yoyong ire on December 3, 2004, the sitting provincial official was spending the Intelligence Fund in style. The following day he was seen in celebratory mood in Palms Country Club in Filinvest Alabang unmindful of the destruction in Quezon. For days on end DZMM was looking for the governor to no avail. It was only after the third visit of GMA in Real that the missing provincial official surfaced. New York City is far luckier; it has a Rudolf Giuliani that marshaled his city’s resources from day one of 9-11 and assuaged its grief.

Typhoon Rosing

In 1995, super typhoon Rosing caused massive destruction in South and Central Quezon far more in magnitude than Yoyong and Winnie combined. Lagnas Bridge in Sariaya was washed out causing paralysis in land transport from the Visayas, Bicol to Metro-Manila. Because of the recent disaster, the local officials were expectant that additional provincial funds might be strewn to augment their calamity assistance budget. To their surprise, it was the governor who was prevailing upon them to contribute to a common provincial fund to assist the typhoon victims.

Uncollected Property Taxes

Quezon is a rich man living like a pauper. It has an uncollected P7B land and property taxes. For the last 5 years, a number of NGOs are in the forefront seeking the collection of real property taxes of the two giant power plants in Quezon.

Because of the delegated power to tax, and the executive power to collect, this is a favorite source of graft by unscrupulous local chief executives. In Quezon experience, there are two power plants located in Cagsiay,  Mauban,  Quezon and Brgy.  Ibabang Pulo, Pagbilao,  Quezon.  Quezon Power Ltd. was constructed at a cost of US$850M while the Pagbilao Power Plant now operated by Mirant Phils. Corp. was touted to be worth US$1B.  Now what have we got here?

The Mauban Assessor made an assessment of P29B of the QPL assets.  Under the LGC, the real property tax being 2% of the assessed value is P540M per year.  Normally, it is the ministerial duty of the governor being the local chief executive to effect the collection of the tax by directing the provincial treasurer to do the job.  In Quezon experience,  QPL jumped the gun by filing a civil suit for damages and consignation against the Mauban Assessor claiming the latter erred in his assessment and thrown in some unfair graft motives.

Conspiracy to Cheat

The remedies of a protesting taxpayer are laid down in the LGC.  The Civil Code (on damages and consignation) has nothing to do with it such that the courts have no jurisdiction.  The principle is pay first before you complain.  Rightly so because were we to allow a faultfinding taxpayer to select his remedy, we put at naught local sources of funds, in this case, the real property tax.

But given the bigness of QPL and its coterie of legal experts, it went to court claiming legal novelty.  The local judge was simply awed by the theory and because of the amount of money deposited (P260M so far) he entertained the suit.  Unbelievably, the lawyer for Quezon Province filed an Answer outright without any counterclaim and devoid of any veritable defenses.  QPL seizing the lapse (?) filed a Motion for Judgment based on the pleadings (not contested anyway, so we might as well proceed to the point).  To date, QPL owes the Province of Quezon P2.5B in realty tax, exclusive of interest at two (2%) percent per month.  What about Mirant Pagbilao Power Plant?

Curiously, Mirant is under BOT for 25 years which it conveniently skirted by the expedience of going to court.  Yet, Quezon officials failed to collect realty tax amounting to another P3.5B in arrears.   Napocor resists the payment of real property tax claiming Mirant Pagbilao is government property.  The BOT Law however is clear that prior to the turn-over of the assets subject to BOT, it is deemed private, thus, liable to realty tax.  One test is who reaps the profits of P8B a year. Certainly not Napocor. In fine, local officers engaged in foot dragging in the collection of tax and in the process the LGUs programs for development are snagged.

It has been bruited about that money changed hands just to have this state of affairs.  Nobody doubts that however, because the situation speaks for itself.

If only Quezon has the money, rehabilitation of REINA can be done in a short time.

So General Garcia is forgotten. Jueteng and and pork are pushed to the backburners. The murdered journalists are statistics. Soon the illegal loggers and the dead in Northern Quezon will gather dust.

Quarry operators are next. And we will again commiserate to the victims of flash floods from the fury of Banahaw.

PLEASE HELP QUEZON.

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