Political pot heats up in the south: Aspirants claim support of Kaps
CEBU, Philippines – You know it is the season for politics when barangay captains suddenly become a hot commodity.
This as two camps that have announced plans to seek the congressional seat in the South District of Cebu City are now claiming the support of several barangay captains.
Councilor Margarita ‘Margot’ Osmeña, wife of South District Rep. Tomas Osmeña, said that even if her bid to run for the position is not yet final, she has the support of 34 captains.
The list includes those 30 barangay chiefs that had earlier pledged their support to former Rep. Antonio Cuenco, who is planning a comeback in next year’s elections.
The 30 reportedly signed a manifesto pledging support for Cuenco, but are willing to withdraw their support if Mrs. Osmeña will be the candidate of the Bando Osmeña Pundok Kauswagan.
“It didn’t come from me but they said that they will take it back (the manifesto) if I decided (to run),” Mrs. Osmeña said.
But she said she is not thinking about it at the moment since a lot may still happen in the next seven months before the filing of the certificates of candidacy.
Councilor Osmeña is one of the three being considered by BOPK for the slot. The others are Councilor Rodrigo Abellanosa and lawyer Aristotle Batuhan.
Rep. Osmeña said in previous reports that his wife is most likely to be endorsed by BOPK if Abellanosa and Batuhan will not figure well in the surveys.
Cuenco, however, refused to believe that the barangay captains will withdraw their support from him in favor of Councilor Osmeña.
“I don’t think so. Dili ko mutuo that they will switch support and disown me. I have trust on them and will rely in their word of honor,” he said.
He added that if the claim of Mrs. Osmeña would happen, only a few of those barangay captains that have signed the manifesto would leave him.
Cuenco said the captains voluntarily gave their support and he never solicited their support.
The manifesto was drafted by Councilor Jose Daluz III and former councilor Gerardo Carillo.
Cuenco said Daluz and Carillo brought the manifesto to him to his surprise during one of his visits in Cebu. He said it was willingly signed by the barangay captains.
“They signed it with their free will and own accord. There’s no deceit employed. Happy man gani sila atong panahona ug nag-inilugay pa gani sila pagpirma,” (…They were happy during that time and were trying to beat each other at signing the manifesto) he added.
Cuenco said that he admires Mrs. Osmeña a lot because of what she has done for the street children of Cebu.
Batuhan casts first stone
Batuhan said that Cuenco does not deserve another term in congress due to various reasons.
The lawyer said that in the past, Cuenco mishandled the “Tony N’ Tommy” (TNT) health service funds that should have helped the constituents in the second district.
“To recall, Cuenco allegedly skimmed off more than P3 million from his Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) in 2004. The P3 million was used to make “ghost purchases” of medicine in a conspiracy allegedly involving Cuenco, his son James, Dell Pharmacy owner Wendell Villacin, and several staff of the Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center (VSMMC),” Batuhan said in a statement.
Cuenco retorted that the Commission on Audit has already cleared him of the charges.
He said he is not involved in the anomaly and even fired the people in-charge from the program.
“Although Cuenco was subsequently excluded from liability by COA’s then National Legal and Adjudication officer-in-charge in 2008, we have yet to see the formal filing of cases against his son James and daughter-in-law Ma. Isabel,” Batuhan said.
Batuhan said that Cuenco has accepted money from former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in Malacañang and “was not, in fact, ashamed to admit it.”
The money he admittedly received from Arroyo, Cuenco said was not a bribe but a Christmas gift to him and to other Congressmen. He said that he received P200,000 from the former president compared to other congressmen who received P500,000.
Cuenco challenged Batuhan to a debate where he will formally answer the accusations thrown by the lawyer against him.
Cuenco said he will prove that Batuhan cheated during a previous election where he still came out as the winner. The two clashed head on in the 2001 and the 2004 elections.
“Pataka na lang na siya og pasangil because I beat him twice already in the elections and he feel so bad,” he said, adding that Batuhan committed a more serious charge when he replaced the genuine ballots with fake ones.
Batuhan also said that Cuenco failed in his anti-drug advocacy and will bring no good to the future of the South Road Properties.
Cuenco said that he has also worked hard for the development of the SRP and even succeeded in getting the land title for Cebu City, contrary to Batuhan’s accusation.
“Ug bahin sa pagbaligya sa SRP lot, unsa man ko, salesman? Dili na ko kamao anang butanga,” (With regards to the SRP lot, I am no salesman. I don’t know anything about that) Cuenco said. —/NLQ (FREEMAN)