QUEZON del SUR: A Leap in Pitch Dark

PhilStar October 30, 2008:

“Among the eight recipients in Southern Tagalog were Elenita Ermita-Buhain of Batangas, daughter of Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, and Aleta Suarez of Quezon, who was succeeded in the present Congress by husband Danilo Suarez, one of President Arroyo’s favorite companions on her foreign trips.”(105 congressmen received funds from Jocjoc)

Philstar September 23, 2008:

“SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission) confirmation negative,” auditors reported when they checked the registration papers of Commoners Foundation and Las Marias Foundation. They could not locate the other fund recipients.

Other private organizations that received funds from DA were Unlad Quezon Foundation, P10 million; Mula sa Puso Foundation (amount not indicated); Bantayog Kalinga Foundation, P5 million; Kamama Foundation, P30 million; Encima Lhea Care Foundation, P2.1 million, JR and JP Enterprises, P13.6 million; Kapuso at Kapamilya Foundation, P13 million; and Buhay Ko, Mahal Ko Foundation, P10 million.

Auditors questioned the use of the last two foundations, which they said were located in Metro Manila.

Questionable transfer of funds

“Since the beneficiaries are Bohol constituents, there is no acceptable reason for the transfer of funds from RFU VII (Central Visayas) to Nabcor (National Agribusiness Corp., a DA agency) and finally to NGOs located in Metro Manila,” they said.

Unlad Quezon Foundation was supposed to implement “Sagip Hanapbuhay,” a project of Rep. Danilo Suarez in Tiaong town. However, auditors reported that most of the alleged beneficiaries did not receive funds.”

The Suarezes of Quezon seem to be flaunting their vaunted influence with the Palace. They were able to wrest from the DBM P38M plebiscite fund for the Quezon Split tentatively set on December 6, 2008. While they soaked themselves with public funds the destiny whereof is suspect, the Palace tenant is set to gift them on a Buenavista gold platter a perpetual monarchy they christened Quezon del Sur. It’s time for the Omhudasman to look into the couple’s license to filch people’s money without us looking.

Their hijo muy bonito Jayjay Suarez got a plum appointment with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources as Assistant Secretary sans specific job description. This young Suarez failed in his governorship bid last local elections. Exactly one year after, their benefactress assured the family of visibility courtesy of the agency that oversees mining operations in the country. The town of Buenavista, without the country looking, is now poised to being transformed as the new Diwalwal just 200 kms. south of Manila. Its small scale gold mining operations produces five kilos of gold a month. The Suarez dynasty has thrown its support to a group of carpetbaggers from neighboring Batangas that dislodged the sitting mayor whom the old man perceives as a continuing threat. Right after the 2004 elections, Buenavista saw the creeping criminality in the once serene countryside. The newly elected vice mayor, a native of the town, was gunned down in broad daylight. To this day, the crime remains unsolved. While motive, opportunity and means point to the group that captured economic and political might in that quaint rustic town, the police looked the other way.

The old man Suarez was interviewed on his take on the forthcoming plebiscite cutting Quezon Province into two. He said he was not an original author of the law. In fact, he was initially opposed to the proposal of division sensing personal agenda on the part of the proponents. When the family however combed the expanse of the province before the May 2007 elections, he said he was aghast by the creeping poverty in the 4th and 3rd districts. Something has to be done, he swore. He is telling us that as congressman of the 3rd district, he had his epiphany. The boogie time is over. It is now time to build his legacy, sensing his mortality at last. He found the answer in the law that creates Quezon del Sur. But Bondoc Peninsula, remember, is the poorest district in Quezon Province. Most of the infrastructures in that godforsaken phallic shaped geography are thru the courtesy of the national government and grants from foreign donors. The Lopez-Buenavista road was initiated in 1995 on nostalgia by FVR. As a young army captain, FVR, it turned out, bivouacked most of his time on that decrepit 33-km. provincial road. Ascending the Presidency, he ordered its rehabilitation as an all-weather road. The Asian Development Bank, on the other hand, spearheaded the construction of the Bondoc Peninsula Circumferential Road under strict supervision and specification. Upon its completion, the old man Suarez lost no time introducing a bill in Congress baptizing the world-class artery as Suarez Highway, named after his obscure late father. What happened to the pork barrel of the good congressman for the last 16 years is for the audit office to find out.

As a fifth term congressman, Suarez has repackaged himself as a tax guru. He delights in describing himself not as the tax collector but as the tax prey. He offers the psychology of the taxpayer in response to a new tax imposition, or so he claims. The trouble however is that he doesn’t teach what he practices. Nowhere has he made public his tax returns for the last eighteen years.

Suarez boasts of having authored the Road Users’ Tax law, now a source of unmitigated graft. In the presidential elections of 2004, he proposed the hiring of thousands of maintenance teams organized by barangay officials to maintain and beautify the roads in the entire country. Under the guise of road upkeep, thousands were employed and a journal entry was created where to channel the billions of taxes collected. Nobody was charged of vote buying, and the sitting president praised the Big Boss as a tax genius who’s a far cry from Al Capone. In a rare Ledac meeting in Malacanang on March 9, 2000, presided by President Estrada, Suarez took the floor to report on the Road Users’ Tax law and its enforcement. To impress Erap he highlighted the billions of pesos the government was set to collect. Erap ordered its 3-month suspension, mindful of the public reaction, until the price of gasoline stabilized. JPE, as senate finance committee chairman, was heard saying he could not divine what on earth the Quezon congressman was mouthing. “Nagkakaintindihan naman yata sila ni Erap,” the senator from Cagayan observed. Another cabinet official,tongue-in-cheek, called the Quezon congressman a “tax impostor”.

In fairness to the old man, he is a product of the School of Hard Knocks. From humble beginnings, he labored until he became one of the more successful businessmen in Quezon. Earning a radio technician certificate from the National Radio School of Echague, Quiapo, Manila, a vocational school near Feati University, he started out as bodegero, and later as an apprentice sharpening frequency crystals for single band radios in T. J. Wolfe. With his rudimentary knowledge in radio communications, he turned out to be an outstanding communications equipment salesman, juggling one asset after another with big bottomline in mind. Thru his vast network established from the early 70s, he practically supplied and installed all imaginable radar and communications gadgets in every airport in the country. He had a tiff with Dick Gordon when the latter was SBMA administrator when the former tried to pass off as brand new what turned out to be reconditioned and obsolete airport equipment for the upkeep of Diosdado Macapagal International Airport. Suarez whispered to Gordon that the latter’s clearance meant a sizeable budget for Gordon’s presidential try in 2001. Nobody saw Gordon at his angriest. Unlike Eddie Rodriguez or Willie Enverga or Bobby Tanada, the old man Suarez is not a pedigreed politician. On his own, he immersed himself in the company of people he knows are of help to attaining his ambition. Having cultivated his good connections with President Marcos, he was anointed by the dictator in 1984 to run as assemblyman in the now defunct Batasang Pambansa under the Kilusang Bagong Lipunan together with Ed Escueta, Cesar Villariba, and the late Benjamin Campomanes. He practically lost his shirt in  his first electoral foray. In 1992, just like the Phoenix, he resurrected with a vengeance. To his credit, unlike Willie Enverga, his children are all professionals. GMANews.TV made the following profile of Suarez in 2007:

Assets, liabilities

Born Danilo Etorma Suarez in Lucena, City, Quezon province, in 1942, Suarez, now 64, is a member of at least eight expensive sports and country clubs – Manila Yacht Club, Makati Sports Club, Puerto Azul Beach & Country Club, Manila Polo Club, Metropolitan Equestrian & Country Club, Baguio Country Club, Matabungkay Beach Club and Calatagan Golf Club.

As chairman of the powerful oversight committee in the 13th Congress, Suarez presided over most of the investigations into sundry issues that the House conducted from 2004 to 2007.

In his last publicly available statement of asset and liabilities filed in 2004, Suarez declared that he has total assets of P74.38 million, total liabilities of P21.27 million, or a net worth of P53.1 million.

Suarez listed his assets (2004) as the following: P7.7 million cash on hand or in the bank, P14 million in jewelry acquired from 1969, eight luxury and four-wheel drive vehicles altogether valued at P16 million, and just a million pesos worth of shares of stocks in various companies.

His other listed assets were appliances (P2.37 million), furnitures and fixtures (P3.5 million) and books (P790,000).

Suarez declared his liabilities in the same year as the following: P20.3 million loan with Security Bank; P431,360.42 payables to “credit cards – Citibank Mastercard; Citibank Visa; Diners Club;” P369,756.35 in club memberships (Baguio Country Club; Makati Sports Club; Manila Polo Club; Puerto Azul; Tower Club; Manila Golf & Country Club) and P152,752.16 in “dues” payable to Twin Tower Condominium.

He admitted being a stockholder from 1974 to 2002 of 10 various companies, including Lucban Farms, La Rey, Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co., Pilipino Telephone Corp., and several country and sports clubs.

Undeclared holdings

However, Suarez did not declare in his 2004 SAL interests in 18 other companies, even as his resume, previous SALs and wife Aleta had acknowledged the same in SALs she filed as congresswoman from 2001 to 2004.

These “undeclared” business interests of Suarez, according to the i-site of the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, included five companies in which Suarez is named as president and chairperson – Europhil Finance House Inc., Inter-Technical Pacific Philippines Inc., Material Resources & Marketing Inc., San Isidro Plantation Inc., and Suarez Group of Companies.

Mrs Aleta Suarez, in her 2001 SAL, had declared that Mr Suarez is a stockholder in five other companies – Aero Maritime Equipment Corp., Centurion Construction & Marketing Corp., Jedelco Inc., Suarez Agro-Industrial and Development Corp., and Trimex Mercantile Inc.

Suarez finished his primary and secondary schooling in Quezon, and took up a Radio Technology course at the Feati University where he supposedly graduated in 1962.

For years, Suarez made a reputation as a contractor of military radar and other supplies. He was once the subject of a complaint by an Air Transport officer about an airport facility deal that Suarez had sought to cancel, allegedly because he lost the bid.

While he declared P74.38M in total assets, no helpful details were supplied. Real estate holdings were nowhere on record. The North Forbes Park manor where he lives is not in his name. Some believe that the declaration was merely meant as an accounting decoy, of assistance only once the declarant is suspected to be engaged in corruption. The voluminous assets as disclosed become a refuge deflecting suspicion of ill-gotten wealth or in case of ostentatious display of consumption. Something has to be done by Congress or the Ombudsman in the submission of its members annual Statement of Assets and Liabilities. The annual reports are bereft of the vital details of business interests and property particulars. Where these statements are pro forma, the concerned agency should treat them as unfiled exposing these erring public officials to criminal and administrative liabilities. For the most part, these SALNs are nothing but empty compliance or brag jobs. Landing in the top ten most richest in the legislature does not agitate the tax agencies.

Indeed the family is seeped in unpretentious exhibition of wealth driving around in expensive motor vehicles. In 1999, he gifted Erap with a BMW. Whether the bequest is for goodwill or not, nobody knows. Bench warming for her husband in 2000, his wife Aleta’s most significant legislative act was to sign, together with Chiz Escudero, the impeachment complaint against former Chief Justice Hilario Davide. It was public knowledge that the cash vault behind the political scheme was no less that the Chairman of San Miguel Corporation, Danding Cojuangco.

In GMA‘s time, the old man even voiced disappointment, which he surprisingly made of record, over the destruction of smuggled luxury vehicles in Subic intercepted by the PAGC. He offered to buy a spanking Porsche prior to its dismantling by a backhoe. He was reported to be a certified member of the Gang of Four in Congress. The reader is advised to just Google this shady group of solons to see for himself the notoriety of this consortium in the art of shakedown. There is that talk going around that prior to the deportation of Mark Jimenez to the US, he entrusted his high-end motor pool to Suarez. Upon MJ’s return and being short of cash, he tried to contact his trusted friend. The latter avoided him like a plague. It turned out Suarez had a garage sale of all MJ’s prized cars. It was not the cheap auction that got the goat of MJ. The wily Quezon congressmen spread the word that MJ will rot in one New York calaboose. With all these disturbing track record of the chief advocate, the future Quezon del Surians are wary of their impending fate.

Nursing defeat in their attempt to install a province-wide dynasty, Quezon del Sur is the next big and best thing for them to move on. Now, the old man whom his children fondly call the “Big Boss” is at the helm of the movement to insuring that Quezon del Sur and Quezon del Norte are added in the long list of new local government units. In this quest, they have as bedfellows the Tanadas. Of course, we know that Quezon is just a parking lot for the Tanadas whose sight is fixed on national politics. They are just here to humor us and their hold on to the congressional seat in the 4th district is only for bragging rights in Manila that just like the Cayetanos, Aquinos, Estradas and the ho-hum rest, they can count on some distant private republic.

RA 9495, the law that creates Quezon del Sur, was mysteriously published in the Manila Times and the Manila Standard Today in late September, 2008. Upon inquiry, the Comelec disclaims participation in the publication. After its printing, the old man Suarez inquired from the office of one Comelec commissioner on the legal implication of him taking the initiative of publication instead of Malacanang and the Comelec. The query remains to be answered. In other words, it was not the government bureau tasked in the dissemination of the law that took care of publication but a concerned congressman from Bondoc Peninsula who stole the thunder from the agencies concerned to making sure the law is as fit as a fiddle before the plebiscite. He doesn’t want to get derailed by some legal obscurantism ironically known as the TANADA v. TUVERA  doctrine which says “to be effective and enforceable, (a law, decree, or rules and regulations) must go through the requisite publication in the Official Gazette or in a newspaper of general circulation in the Philippines .” While he spent a fortune personally causing the publication, he forgot that the law was already published in Volume 104, No. 16, April 21, 2008 issue of the Official Gazette. But RA 9495 has a fixed timetable. The bill lapsed into law on September 7, 2007 without the signature of the President. In its section 49 however, the law provides for the conduct of a plebiscite within sixty (60) days from the date of (its) affectivity…or on the immediately succeeding national elections whichever comes first.” Per Tanada v. Tuvera, the plebiscite should have been set on June 21, 2008, or sixty (60) days from OG publication which of course came first because there is no “succeeding national elections” between September 7, 2007 or April 21, 2008 and June 21, 2008. The old man Suarez told the Comelec that the plebiscite should proceed on December 6, 2008 reckoned from his publication of the law in the two newspapers mentioned on September 6, 2008 and local newspapers probably on October 6, 2008, clearly already outside the timetable fixed by the law. Even if RA 9495 does not mention its publication in the Official Gazette, the Tanada doctrine is deemed read in the statute.

On the funding of the plebiscite, the law says that “the amount necessary for the conduct of such plebiscite shall be charged against the unexpended portion of the current budget of the COMELEC.” As certified to by Director Luz M. Cantor of the Department of Budget on May 22, 2008, “the total Fiscal Year 2008 Budget of Comelec authorized under the 2008 General Appropriations Act (GAA) has already been released to the said agency. As such, it is the COMELEC and not (DBM) who can confirm/certify the availability of funds for the conduct of the …plebiscite.” Comelec, on the other hand, disclaims lack of funds for the Quezon del Sur plebiscite. Director Bartolome Sinocruz reports (Minutes, Regular En Banc Meeting 08-0556), as of April 25, 2008), that the Comelec is in the red to finance the Quezon del Sur plebiscite right after the successful ARMM automated elections. In sum, reckoned from April 21, 2008 when OG published the law, there is no way by which the old man Suarez can have his way bamboozling the Comelec to set the schedule of the plebiscite, unless instructions trickle in from the Palace.

It was from the Suarez camp where the conflicting dates of the plebiscite came from. At first it was December, 2007, then moved to January, 2008. Now it was tentatively set on November 12, 2008. The latest news reports say December 6, 2008. While drafts of the various Resolutions were already forwarded to the Comelec En banc, they remained just that. The Comelec as a collegial body finds it hard to conduct its business for lack of quorum.

Erin Tanada charged those who campaign for the negative vote with misinformation on the conflicting dates of the forthcoming plebiscite. We wonder who’s guilty of that.

In biblical times, the messengers of bad news were slain matter-of-factly. The idea of two Quezons is bad news inside out. But that is not the point. It is the character of the messenger that makes the bad news even more unpalatable. The Suarezes are giving us a new door that is Quezon del Sur. By opening it, he wants us to leap into the unknown.

2 thoughts on “QUEZON del SUR: A Leap in Pitch Dark

Leave a Reply