Let us ask COA and Ombudsman to investigate

OFF TANGENT - Aven Piramide - The Freeman

Guindulman, a town in Bohol located 85 kilometers east of the province s capital, Tagbilaran City, was my mother s birth place. Legend says that the town s name came from  gi doman  a Boholano word to mean literally  made dark.  Long ago, everyone coming to the poblacion either from Tagbilaran City or from the opposite direction of Ubay, would find the town apparently dark because the rays of the sun were filtered by the thick foliage of huge Acacia trees growing by the roadside.

Sometime in the middle of last December 2023, a pouch was personally delivered to my humble home here in Cebu City. The person bringing the package did not identify himself. He just told our helper who received it that it was Christmas gift for me from a long lost friend! Why me? What is my connection to Guindulman? Aside from the fact that my mother was born there, we lived in the house of my maternal grandparents in Barangay Tabajan in 1962-63 and I spent great times with many boyhood friends.

The pouch contained a USB, which was specially wrapped probably more to attract my attention than to protect it from contamination; a kind of a 1-page newsletter with an aesthetically designed masthead LAMDAG and photo copies of documents.

True indeed, the USB got my attention and I hurried to scan it first. It had two folders. The first folder showed the video footage of a segment of Balitang Bisdak, the afternoon television news program of GMA s Channel 7. The news was about a giant Christmas Tree. On video, the lighting was switched on November 28, 2022 and it glittered the whole area to usher the 2022 Christmas season. According to the broadcaster, the Christmas tree, 65 feet, was the tallest such structure in the entire Bohol province. The second folder showed Guindulman Mayor Albino Balo thanking certain Guindulmanons residing abroad for the construction of the christmas tree. I took the mayor s statement to be an acknowledgment that the whole project was donated by well-meaning friends of his and that it was built at no cost to the municipality. I do not personally know Mayor Balo but I doffed my hat to him for such a brilliantly conceived idea of celebrating the holidays without a centavo spent from the town s funds.

The newsletter and photo copies of documents raised questions. First question. A giant Christmas tree was lighted in November 2022, a completed project. But a document showed that the town was bidding out a project in March 2023 for building a multi-purpose billboard.  Its accompanying design was unmistakably identical to the town s much ballyhooed giant Christmas tree. Could such similarity of the design of both the Christmas tree and the billboard be purely coincidental?

Second question. Another document claimed payment of the multi-purpose billboard. I was shocked to find the picture of the giant Christmas tree, the one that Balitang Bisdak reported in November 2022, being used as proof of the completion of a much later 2023 project. It dawned on me that there was actually NO such multi-purpose billboard project. While there were documentations for the construction of a multi-purpose billboard showing a bidding in March 2023, the physical project was the Christmas tree which was completed in November 2022, or 4 months earlier. Is this not falsification of documents?

Third question. There are documents showing the payment of Guindulman town to the supposed contractor/builder of the billboard in the amount of more than P1 million. Is there anyone guilty of malversation of public funds?

If the COA and the Ombudsman want to answer these questions, I will send the relevant documents to them for their scrutiny.

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