SOUTHERN COMFORT: Portent of things to comeBy Edwin Espejo Jan 16, 2013 7:36AM UTC
Sarangani Gov. Miguel Rene Dominguez is leaving office in July of this year and will go back to private life after dropping plans to run for any local elective post.
But he has not been spared the ugly face of political vendetta.
Members of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan (Provincial Board) dramatically slashed funds for his favorite social programs, one of which is this year’s Galing Pook awardee – the province’s Quest Program.
Galing Pook is the most prestigious award given to local government units for innovation and governance. It will be Sarangani’s third Galing Pook Award. The province will then be inducted into the Hall of Fame, with Dominguez sharing honors in a spot with the late Jessie Robredo of Naga City.
The intelligence fund of the office of the governor was, for the first time, likewise drastically reduced by an appropriations and budget committee chaired by Eugene Alzate.
The rationale Alzate gave for the slashing of governor’s intelligence funds and funding for programs under the governor’s office was flimsy and vague at best.
It is best to revisit where Alzate is coming from in order to better understand his apparent personal take and dislike of the outgoing governor.
In 2004, Alzate lost in his re-election bid as provincial board member after he was named and later charged in the multimillion fund scam that then rocked Sarangani.
Among the graft charges filed against him was for misappropriating funds from the then countryside development fund (CDF) of former Rep. Erwin Chiongbian. He was also accused of misusing government funds and property during his Cebu wedding in 2003.
In August 2012, Alzate, along with former provincial administrator Perla Maglinte and Amelia Carmela Constantino-Zoleta, was convicted by the Sandiganbayan of estafa through falsification of public documents in relation to the fund misuse.
Alzate was also earlier found guilty of administrative charges and was effectively suspended by the Office of the Ombudsman. His suspension was however rendered moot and academic after he lost the 2004 elections.
In a separate case, former Sarangani Gov. Miguel Escobar was also convicted by the same graft court of conspiracy to commit fraud and malversation together with former provincial treasurer Cesar Cagang and audit analyst Vivencia Telesforo.
A handful of other provincial officials and employees are still facing various charges in connection with the P43-million fund scam in the province committed between 2001 and 2003. Alzate is one of the more prominent provincial officials mentioned as involved in the multi-million fund scandal. At least 16 cases were filed against no less than 18 government officials and employees that included those already convicted. Most of these cases are still pending.
In 2004, only two of the 10 then incumbent provincial board members were re-elected but only one of them came from Escobar’s group. Escobar also lost his re-election bid to Dominguez who ran on a platform of good governance.
Alzate made a political comeback in 2010 when he reclaimed his seat in the provincial board under the People’s Champ Movement (PCM) of Rep. Manny Pacquiao.
Since then, he has trained his sights on the governor.
In 2011, Alzate accused Dominguez of failure to liquidate cash advances reportedly amounting to millions of pesos. He however failed to substantiate his claims.
His name repeatedly cropped up as the engineer behind the breakup of the alliance between Pacquiao and Dominguez, adversaries in the 2010 elections, who initially agreed to trade positions for this year’s elections.
When Dominguez declined the offer to run for vice governor, Alzate positioned himself to become the province’s next second highest official and was poised to become one until disagreement over his fielding as official candidate threatened to break up or put in disarray Pacquiao’s PCM.
Dominguez was instrumental in having Jinkee, Pacquiao’s wife, as candidate for vice governor to quiet the growing discontent over Alzate’s positioning in the PCM party.
Alzate was distraught and was said to have spent time in a hospital in General Santos City to lick his wounds after he failed to notch the vice-gubernatorial slot in the PCM slate.
If these aforementioned circumstances are not reasons enough to conclude that his recent actions as chair of the appropriation and budget committee of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan were aimed at exacting political vendetta on Dominguez, we will just have to contend ourselves with the reasons he gave behind the slashing of the governor’s budget.
Or should we really believe him?
Somebody who will replace Dominguez as the next governor of Sarangani better watch out. Before him are portents of things to come.