ROOK SACRIFICE

SOME guys are luckier than others.

These lucky guys have people who would follow their orders and are willing to make sacrifices just to save them when push comes to shove.

Just like in a game of Chess, all other pieces are dispensable and can be given away if there is a need to protect and save the King.

Reports have it that Transportation Undersecretary for Rails and Toll Roads Noel Kintanar has left his post and his boss Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade has already accepted his resignation.

 

Taking the Heat  

No official reasons were provided on why Kintanar has resigned from his job but there were persistent rumors that he made the move to take the heat off Tugade.

If it was true, then how lucky can Tugade get? In Chess, it was like a Rook which is a major piece being sacrificed to save his King.

Since Kintanar left in a huff and under the shroud of mystery, the question is, did he actually do it to save the department from further scrutiny or did he do it to let Tugade come away clean?

 

Conflict of Interest

Kintanar joined the DOTr last July after Tugade reportedly invited him because of his vast experience and deep knowledge in railway operations and maintenance.

During his first few days in office, Tugade was declaring in his all media interviews that he could solve traffic problems in Metro Manila and other highly urbanized centers within their first 100 days. 

His confidence emanates from the fact that the people he chose to help him in his tasks are experienced and knowledgeable in the respective posts where they were assigned.

 

The Catch

There is a catch however. 

It turned out that some of his top lieutenants actually earned their experience while working for some business conglomerates that have dealings with the government.

In the case of Kintanar, he earned his spurs so to speak while working as a senior official at Ayala Corp. and its infrastructure subsidiary, AC Infrastructure that is also into railways.

As everybody knows, an Ayala consortium operates the Light Rail Transit Line 1, a train system that Kintanar also oversaw as DOTr undersecretary. 

The same conglomerate also operates the four-kilometer Muntinlupa Cavite Expressway or MCX.

 

More Air than Substance

Because of Tugade and his top men’s questionable background due to their previous connections, DOTr has been placed under the microscope and it did not help that he turned out to be more of air than substance.

This became even more glaring when he failed to make good on his promise to untangle the traffic mess or at least make life a little better for the motorists and riding public within 100 days.

That prompted some advocacy groups among them Road Users Protection Advocates (RUPA) to train their guns on DOTr and the people behind it including Tugade and his men.

The results of RUPA’s probe startled them as they discovered that Tugade could be hiding some skeletons in his closet generating questions about potential conflict-of-interest and where his loyalty truly lies.

RUPA convenor Ray Junia said that while they have nothing personal against Tugade they have decided to oppose his confirmation by the Commission on Appointments (CA), after they determined that he is not fit for the job aside from his questionable background.  

 

Tugade’s Clark Stint

Tugade used to head the Clark Freeport Zone which like any other similar zones, is designed as assembly point of tax-free raw materials for re-export.

During his stint in Clark, some anti-corruption groups have accused him of allowing smuggling to flourish and that his turf has became transshipment area of various smuggled highly dutiable goods that found their way in the local market.

Tugade was also accused of conflict of interest because his family owns the Perry’s Group of Companies, which is into logistics and consolidation business, among others.

Customs sources based in Clark also accused him of allowing oil smuggling resulting to billions of pesos in losses corresponding duties and taxes.

It was also corroborated by a source from the customs’ intelligence group, who said that in 2014 oil smuggling in Clark and other ports remains unabated and even flourished with the entry of the new administration.               

 

More Smuggling

Another source from the Clark Anti-Smuggling Task Force said that in 2014 18 luxury cars worth several millions of pesos were spirited out of the free port zone without the corresponding documents and certificate of payments from customs.

The same source revealed that some smuggled items that they subsequently intercepted ended up being released anyway allegedly after ‘verbal instructions’ from the office of Tugade.

 

Outbursts

Obviously piqued with the criticisms that he was receiving, Tugade recently blasted his critics at the inauguration of the Clark- Mabalacat-Angeles Road (CMAR) formerly known as the Mabalacat- Clark East Perimeter Road.

Tugade, being the former president and CEO of the Clark Development Corp. (CDC), really felt at home as he scored his critics noting the “misplaced insults and accusations that cannot be fathomed.” 

“Puwede ho ba, tao rin ho ako na maaaring masaktan sa alipustang wala sa lugar at akusasyon na dapat hindi man lang pinag-iisipan, sasabihin ko ‘Putang ina  tao rin ako” he angrily said.

(May I say that I am also human being that can get hurt with misplaced insults and accusations that should not even be pondered, I am saying ‘son of a bitch, I am also human). 

Tugade also challenged his critics to show proof of their contribution to the development of Pampanga and even Clark. 

“Marahil yung pagmamahal at pagpapakita ng pagmamahal magkaiba ho pero tatanungin ko kayo sa mga pumapansin at bumabatikos makinig kayong mabuti: Ano naman ho kaya ang nagawa niyo para sa Pampanga? Ano naman ho kaya ang sinakripisyo niyo para sa Clark development zone. 

(Maybe the love and the manifestation of love are different but may I ask those who criticize and rant against me to listen carefully: What have you done for Pampanga? What have you sacrificed for Clark Development Zone)

He also professed his great love for Pampanga asking the people never to doubt his love for the province.

 

Tugade’s Dream 

Tugade also revealed that his dream is to someday build a train line that will connect Subic and Clark adding that he will ask President Duterte to help him realize his dream because he is convinced that Pampanga is the Pearl of Central Luzon. 

“Sana ho ngayong araw na ito sa aking pagpunta rito upang batiin ang aking mga kasamahan sa CDC, yung mga mamumuhunan, yung mga pamunuhan ng LGU, sana ho ang ating pagkakaibigan ay manatili o kung darating ang panahon na pinagdarasal ko na hindi mangyari na tayo ay magkakahiwalay ng landas dahil sa guhit ng pulitika” he pointed out.

(I hope that this day of my visit here to greet my colleagues at CDC, to the investors, to the heads of the LGUs, I hope our friendship will remain or if there will come a time that I pray won’t happen that we will be separated due to the course brought by politics). 

 

Why the Bias for Clark?

As stated above, Tugade apparently has developed deep love and appreciation for Pampanga especially in the Clark Development Zone area which was reciprocated without doubt by the people of the province.

His deep affinity for the province despite his being just an ‘adopted’ son however raises a lot of question especially since there are lots that are at stakes there, considering the planned developments for the Pampanga in the coming years.

One such development plan is the proposed transfer of NAIA Terminal to Clark area to help unclog the terrible traffic mess in Metro Manila and suburb.

Tugade is known to have been pushing and pursuing that the new international gateway be relocated to Clark area.

His stand on this matter however is somewhat perplexing since the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) which made the recommendation and conducted the study already said that it was not their preferred top choice.

Then again, why is he too biased for Clark? Was it because he really loves the place or is it because of millions of pesos in potential earnings especially in real estate ventures once the planned international airport is built there?

For those not yet in the know, the law is clear that nobody could own a lot title inside economic zones like Clark but the land can be leased for as long as 50 years or even beyond.

Remember that Tugade has worked in Clark for a long period. So, are we correct to surmise that he could be one of those who rented prime lot areas in the place which he intends to sublease to investors who would come along once the airport is built? Just asking?

Also, a number of shabu laboratories are being discovered in Pampanga lately. 

Police sources said that results of their investigations showed that the equipments being used in those labs were smuggled into the country through Clark a few years back.

 

What Now?

While Secretary Tugade may have made a good account of himself as head of CDC as he claims, his performance however as transport department head leaves much to be desired.

It does not help that his chosen people who are supposed to help him have suspicious loyalty and interests so it would be better if at this time he should follow the lead of Kintanar.

If he really loves this country and the people he could do the supreme sacrifice of resigning from his post and turn over the transport reins to someone who is more capable and whose integrity and character are beyond reproach.

 

 

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