Mystery Figure

by Juan L. Mercado

“Who is this shadowy Al-Razel Abula?”, enquired Engineer Leonor Lagsaca from  Iloilo City.  The column “Mindset of Abuse” (PDM/July 29) mentions Al-Razel Abula in passing.  With two companions, Abula encashed 41 percent of checks from Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao public works office.
“Abula is not a municipal government employee”,  notes the Commission on Audit’s report: “Selected Municipalities ( Trust Fund)”  This special audit tracks Abula,  flitting from town to town, encashing  multi-million peso checks, “sometimes even without endorsement by the Muncipal Treasurer.”
In Shariff Aguak, Abula drew P1.48M. He picked up P1.44M million in Datu Piang. And in Parang, Abula encashed a P1.54M thru a Land Bank check .

Abula withdrew cash for a P708,778 for a check meant for Datu Saudi Ampatuan town. “These checks (were) endorsed by Mayor Datu Ombra Sinsuat and another person whose signature was not legible.”
“These transfers were not received by the municipal government,” COA says. “The encashment of these checks were nonetheless authorized.”
“Will Mayor Ombra Sinsuat tell us who Abula is?,” Lagsca asks. “Was Abulla collecting for someone else? Who? If he pocketed that cash, did Abula report such extraordinary income to the BIR? Silly question?
“Under Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, the Ombudsman for Mindanao could not be bothered by such questions. But now, Justice Conchita Carpio Morales is Ombudsman.’ Will we finally get some answers?”
From Sto. Domingo  Ilocos Sur, Atty. Mariano Tajon comments on the column “Flypaper Effect”. This spotlighted local  governments’ diversion of  the 20 percent Local Development Fund from human needs into pork barrel items.
Sto. Domingo Sangguniang Bayan didn’t appropriate an LDF of P795,798.40 for development projects. It paid instead for 40 guns of various caliber. These were distributed to barangay captains, unlicensed to posses firearms.
Impounded by COMELEC, the guns were released after elections. “Thus, I filed a case of of technical malversation against the mayor, municipal treasurer, and municipal accountant” with the Office of the Deputy Ombudsman (Luzon).
Section 287, of the Local Government Code, stipulates that LDFs are to be used exclusively for social, economic and environmental projects. Guns are out. Local Government Memo Circular 2010-138 amplifies this thrust. So does Budget Department’ Circular 2011-1. 
Ignoring these guidelines, the Investigating Prosecutor recommended dismissal of the complaint. “So, we lodged a motion for reconsideration. “  The outcome will have repercussions on how LGUs administer a vital development resource — a point that new Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales will appreciate.
In Abu Dhabi, Leo Quillo and fellow OFWorkers read the column “Self-applied Muzzles.“ Did we err in working abroad?,” they wrote.
If we entered politics, we need not put in long hours, scrimp, battle homesickness and arrogance of foreign bosses, adjust to quirks of alien co-wrokers, etc. Instead, we’d just scoop a bit from  hundreds of millions flowing from PAGCOR’s billion peso coffee pot, sweepstakes  “intelligence fund”, ARRM plunder, overpriced helicopters etc.
How did all these happen?  Were there no Heidi Mendozas that time? It is very disappointing for people like us. We  save to acquire a small lot and house, back home. Not multi-million mansions; like our politicians.
How can we pay for a modest house over 3, 5 or even 10 years? What if we lose our job? Or fall ill?  etc. We toss such questions in our minds and conversations. This is how difficult an OFWs’ life can be.
Is there still a chance for our leaders to make a 180 degree turn? We hope P-Noy can really make a difference. Because what’s appearing today are insults to OFW’s suffering.  Most Filipino OFWs choose to be fair and decent. Is it too much to hope that our politically leaders do likewise?

The  Viewpoint column  “Silenced Songbirds” reminded me of that seminal work by Rachel Carson entitled “Silent Spring”, former United Nations forester Napoleon Vergara  wrote from Los Banos.
Carson wrote  about silenced songbirds, chirping insects and other wildlife. Many were rendered almost extinct by the indiscriminate use of insecticides, pesticides, etc. These are lessons that we still have to take to heart.
Mt. Makiling National Park and the Makiling Botanical Gardens are nature reserves managed by UP Los Banos. They’re  are  the largest and best conserved natural and man-made forests. Close to Metro Manila, they attract a lot of local tourists, especially city dwellers and young students who are hungry for “a taste of nature”.
Unfortunately, large segments on the lower slopes of Makiling are in private hands. And Travelers along South Luzon Expressway see the stark contrast between the green, densely forested Makiling National Park and the areas under private control.   Makiling’s  forest vegetation (and the natural habitat of wildlife) is well conserved. But the intrusion of people has silenced  far too many songbirds.  
As a young UPLB student, in the early 50s, I was thrilled by the cacophony of music made by the large hornbills, the black and yellow orioles, the  green and red parrots, the green-breasted doves, monkeys, etc. right within the campus.  Now they are silent and gone,  victims of unregulated hunting.

Conservation laws, were passed  with the best of intentions. But they’re toothless from weak kneed implementation. Too bad.

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