Promotion or demotion?

SENTINEL - Ramon T. Tulfo - The Philippine Star

Rumors are rife that a big-name gambling lord is behind the disappearance of 31 cockfight aficionados.

Some little birds told me that the desaparecidos were involved in what is known in sabong (cockfighting) circles as tiope or game-fixing.

Tiope is injuring a fighting cock before a game with its owner and his friends betting on the other cock.

The 31 missing men did not reckon with the consequences of their cheating, the little birds tweeted.

The gambling lord has in his payroll many police and members of the underworld who would do his bidding.

The little birds said the gambling lord has been responsible for the murder of people who worked for his competitors.

Sabong is a gentleman’s game where the players are expected to be honest with each other in making their bets.

Those who welsh on their bets are usually ganged upon by other aficionados.

The desaparecidos had been caught cheating in the daily multi billion-peso online betting or e-sabong, according to the little birds.

In big-time money deals such as sabong, cheaters pay a high price – with their lives, even – when they’re caught.

The Philippine National Police (PNP), particularly the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group, knows the mastermind of the mass disappearance but is withholding his identity.

The gambling lord owns the cockfight arenas in different places where the desaparecidos were abducted from.

One of the little birds gave a hint to this columnist on the identity of the gambling lord: he’s fond of beautiful married women.

“Nang-aagaw siya ng asawa ng ibang lalaki (He steals wives of other men),” tweeted the little bird.

*      *      *

It’s a pity that Wilma Eisma, the first woman to become chair and administrator of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA), had to resign, purportedly for “health reasons.”

Eisma was a no-nonsense female honcho of the economic and freeport zone which straddles the provinces of Bataan and Zambales and Olongapo City.

She has been appointed to the board of the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP), considered a promotion with all the perks and privileges of the office. As a member of the DBP board, she can only be replaced if the other board members vote her out.

In other words, her appointment to the DBP belies the health reasons ek-ek for leaving the SBMA.

Eisma’s being kicked upstairs by Malacañang was to spite Sen. Dick Gordon who has had a brush with President Rodrigo “Digong” Duterte. Her term as SBMA head was supposed to end in June this year.

Her replacement, former Olongapo City mayor Rolen Paulino, is a political rival of the Gordons.

The vast area covering SBMA used to be the Subic Naval Base, the biggest US Navy base outside the United States.

Then president Fidel V. Ramos made the US base into an economic zone shortly after the Americans left.

The first SBMA head was Gordon, who made the former military base into a booming area for international commerce.

Eisma was appointed SBMA chief upon Gordon’s recommendation when the President and the senator were still friends.

She was one of the first volunteers in the free port and economic zone during Gordon’s tenure.

*      *      *

Another official in the Duterte administration to be kicked upstairs – this time considered a demotion – is Maj. Gen. Vicente Danao Jr. who, until several days ago, was director of the National Capital Region Police Office, the most powerful police regional command.

Danao, a member of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) Class of 1991, has been placed as chief of the Philippine National Police’s directorial staff, considered a sinecure post.

His new assignment does not hold power as it is not a managerial or commander’s post.

Being close to the President, Danao was touted to replace Guillermo Lorenzo Eleazar as PNP chief, but the President instead chose Dionardo Carlos.

His being bypassed as PNP chief is now a subject of speculation.

“Probably he (Danao) has ruffled feathers of some big shots in the Duterte government,” says a Malacañang watcher.

Or Danao will be appointed after Carlos since he will be retiring on Aug. 10, 2023, under President Digong’s revolving-door policy.

*      *      *

The Professional Regulation Commission’s Board of Architecture has suspended Felino “Jun” Palafox, world-renowned architect and urban planner, from practicing his profession for one year.

Palafox’s suspension is suspicious, probably timed after this column exposed the corruption that attended the setting up of the Aurora Pacific Economic Zone and Freeport Authority (APECO).

APECO has been exposed recently in this column as a white elephant or an inutile economic zone with few stakeholders.

APECO has some structures – mostly empty – within its 12,496 hectares.

After years of being finished, the area only boasts of an administration building and a supposedly three-star hotel, which is unfinished.

Palafox, who was originally involved in the planning of APECO, opposed it after he found that the area stands on very unsafe grounds: the site is in danger of liquefaction (the ground becoming watery or mudlike in an earthquake) and severe flooding and tsunami during severe storms.

Palafox is not the only one who opposed APECO. The others are Fr. Jose Francisco Talaban, parish priest of Casiguran town where APECO is located, and the indigenous people of Aurora whose ancestral land, they claim, was forcibly taken away by the government to give way for the economic and freeport zone.

The respected architect and urban planner was charged with libel by then senator Edgardo Angara, who sponsored the law creating APECO, along with his son Sonny, then Aurora congressman.

Up to now, the libel cases are still in the courts even after the elder Angara’s demise.

Palafox has been saying he opposed APECO to prevent “the wastage of millions of pesos of people’s money.”


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