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Ombudsman sedition plaint vs Gov. Tupas

Things are not always what they seem to observers. And that may be the case in the controversial attempt to dislodge Iloilo Gov. Niel Tupas from the Iloilo provincial capitol that roused the entire nation.

So, they investigated the allegedly "high-handed action" by the police force. And the Senate even recommended the ouster of several personalities, including possible exile from Western Visayas of several police officers involved in the tumultuous affair.

But when everything had seemed to have ebbed, suddenly the Office of the Ombudsman-Visayas came out with its findings of "enough basis" to proceed with the criminal investigation into the complaint for sedition filed against Tupas and four government officials.

Gov. Tupas, board member "Junior," provincial administrator Manuel Mejorada, and Iloilo Rehabilitation Center warden Jujan Mabugat were given 10 days to file their counter-affidavits and controverting evidence on the complaint.

Ombudsman director for evaluation and investigation officer Edgardo Canton also said that Tupas and his group are prohibited from filing any motion to dismiss, motion for bill of particulars, or similar dilatory motions.

Vice Gov. Roberto Armada and board member Emmanuel Gallar filed the charges against Tupas et al. They alleged that Tupas and company "with criminal intent of public knowledge and disseminated by them in person through their agents, etc. openly and publicly broadcast in all media outlets, with support and presence of their visibly armed agents and supporters, displaying their emblems as Bayan Muna."

Armada and Gallar also said Tupas’ armed supporters would use all means to stop and prevent them from entering the provincial capitol premises to discharge their duties and functions.

Both Armada and Gallar had been sworn into office as acting governor and vice governor by Undersecretary Wencelito Andanar upon receipt of the order by the Ombudsman for Tupas’ relief.

The Iloilo City prosecutor inhibited himself from handling the investigation into the sedition charge filed by Armada and company. Lawyer Hector Teosodio, Tupas’ defense counsel, argued that the officer might be influenced or treat the complaint with unfairness.

He contended that acting Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez was saying over the radio that sedition charges could be filed against Gov. Tupas and company for their refusal to abandon their post and allow the newly installed officials to function.

Tupas and his lawyers are finalizing their answer to the sedition complaint filed by Armada and Gallar before the Ombudsman.

"How could a duly constituted authority be guilty of sedition? The fact was there was a temporary restraining order stopping the implementation of the dismissal order," was the point raised by provincial legal officer Salvador Cabaluna.

The DILG installed Armada as governor on Jan. 15. But on Jan. 19, the DILG ordered Armada to re-assume as vice governor according to a memorandum issued by Undersecretary Andanar.

Armada insisted though that he was installed as governor and could not be removed from office, except for cause. That is why he filed instead a leave of absence, although that was disputed by members of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan who last week approved a motion to censure Armada for continuous absence without leave.

Well, as I had earlier pointed out, there are always many sides to a question. And when one point appeared to have gained the upper hand, suddenly a new one rears its ugly head.

In short, that sedition rap may still be a sword of Damocles dangling over the head of Tupas and company.

First National Arts Fair

The Kabayao family, spearheaded by Gilopez Kabayao, kicked off the First National Arts Fair which is being held in Bacolod City, the capital of Negros Occidental.

The affair is being hosted by the Negros Cultural Foundation, the committee on art galleries and the provincial government.

Last night’s charity concert by the Kabayaos was for the benefit of the Negros Museum and the Negros Occidental Youth Orchestra.

Actually, today, March 1, is the ceremonial opening of the arts fair. The ribbon-cutting will be presided by Negros Occidental Gov. Joseph Marañon, National Commission for Culture and Arts chairman Ambeth Ocampo and Vice Gov. Isidro Zayco. Jose Marie Chan and ambassadors of several countries have been invited to grace the occasion.

There will also be the opening of the international pavilions and of the Retrospective exhibit of art works of several deceased outstanding Negrense artists like Jess Ayco, Ely Santiago and several others.

Antique Gov. Sally Zaldivar-Perez will be the speaker at the forum on culture and arts. Gov. Perez, who also chairs the regional council of history and culture, will discuss "Arts – The Antidote to Politics."

There will be other activities such as Art Space with the La Carlota Drumbeaters, and Bohemian Night at the Social Hall of the provincial capitol.

Tonight, Romanian violinist Alexander Tomescu with Negrense pianist Mary Anne Espina will play at a concert at the Governor’s Hall of the provincial capitol.

The concert is under the auspices of the Negros Cultural Foundation and the NCCA.

Tomescu and Espina were given a triple standing ovation Saturday night at the Philamlife Theater.

"You really outdid yourself," commented former Tourism Secretary Gemma Cruz-Araneta during the post-concert reception. "Your audience simply went wild," she added.

The day after, both were also given another standing ovation during their first appearance at the Nueva Ecija Convention Center in Palayan City where Tomescu was mobbed by students.

Gun ban charges vs 12 security guards

The police yesterday readied charges of violation of the Comelec gun ban against 12 security guards of the MGE Cornerstone hired by Magaleno Peña for bringing their firearms outside their duty area.

According to Senior Superintendent Rosendo Franco, provincial PNP director, the 12 security guards’ coverage area was only Barangay Ubay in Pulupandan town, but they committed a violation by bringing their firearms to Barangay Zone 2 of the same town.

Peña claimed that the barangay zone forms part of their family property.

The security guards also failed to present Comelec permits allowing them to carry firearms during the election ban period. They were temporarily held at the Pulupandan police station.

Press freedom complaint against lawmaker

A radio broadcaster filed a complaint for alleged violation of the Election Code against Rep. Monico Puentevella and two officials of the RGMA Network Inc.

The complaint for coercion was filed by Donaldo Duance Nojas, program director of Super Radyo Bacolod.

He claimed that he was barred from handling any program of the station without any valid ground, except to placate the lawmaker who submitted a letter-complaint against him last Jan. 9.

Ironically, Puentevella was once president of the Negros Press Club. As Bacolod City Mayor Evelio Leonardia did, too.

Nojas claimed that Puentevella is using his power and influence as vice chairman of the House communications committee to silence him and suppress RGMA from airing comments on his performance as congressman.

Nojas also included in his complaint RGMA Visayas area manager Butz Maquinto who allegedly suspended his program Saksi for alleged violation of the directive against discussing issues on the lawmaker’s projects.

Incidentally, Vice Mayor Renecito Novero, who is running for Congress against Puentevella, was dragged into the controversy when Eric Tenerife, the lawmaker’s spokesman, said it was political harassment because Nojas is reportedly Novero’s media protégé.

Novero pointed out that "if Tenerife wants the correct information, let his congressman and myself speak face to face so everything will be settled once and for all."

He also cautioned Tenerife not to fabricate issues which are not helpful to the city.

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