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Straight Jab

Libananís racket

First Posted 09:33:00 05/16/2008

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Pressed by Cebu City Rep. Antonio Cuenco to name the six big-time Cebu-based car smugglers, Presidential Anti-Smuggling Group chief Antonio Villar, during the resumption of the congressional hearing the other day, justified his non-disclosure, saying he feared being charged with libel because they do not have enough evidence. From the official of the agency that unmasked the rampant smuggling activities in Central Visayas, that?s flimsy reasoning, and this renders the hearing inutile, a waste of public funds.

On several occasions, witnesses at Senate hearings on raging concerns of national interest were ordered, if not threatened, to be detained if they didn?t cooperate. The House committee looking into the case should have done the same to the PASG official.

The initial info I got about these so-called big-time smugglers was rather shocking. Most of them come from Manila and they use fictitious names and addresses to hide their identities. Worse, their connections with those in power make them untouchables, and this is probably what shuts the mouth of the PASG chief.

My recent visit to Manila led me to some fresh info about car smuggling in Cebu, showing that the problem has not been addressed. My unimpeachable source at the Bureau of Customs revealed the seizure in the capital city of several luxury vehicles that were believed to be smuggled into the country through the local ports and registered at Land Transportation Office agencies in Cebu and some parts of the region.

My source promised to send me documents containing detailed info related to the controversy. These papers might even raise the eyebrows of the PASG chief, who keeps the House probers hanging with his no-disclosure policy.

* * *

Have you ever heard of a top Bureau of Immigration official who performs a concert whenever he visits a local BI office? Probably not known to many, Immigration Commissioner Marcelino Libanan, a former congressman from Samar, is also a guitar virtuoso whose talent had gained him employment abroad before he became a politician.

Libanan?s love for music may perhaps win the admiration of some of his peers, but I was told a different story. Libanan?s concerts are attended by foreigners not because his performances cater to their taste but because these visitors are ?required? to be at his shows for a whooping P4,800 a ticket, as alleged by a very reliable source.

The latest concert of the Waray guitar master was held in Baguio City, and he?s scheduled to have another one in Davao City this week. He had ?secretly? launched his ?concert tour? with a ?big? concert in an A-1 beer garden in Mandaue City late last year, only a few months after he got the immigration commissionership with the help of then Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr.

Libanan?s ?captive audience? in Mandaue was the local Korean community, the source said. ?Puro nagmug-ot, sir, kay mahal kaayo ang ticket nga dako ra para sa barat nga salida (the ticket price was not worth the cheap show),? the source added.

I was shown digital images taken with a cell phone camera that had Central Visayas police director Chief Supt. Ronald Roderos, a Cebu congressman and another from Surigao posing with the ?star of the night.? Apparently tasked to take photos of the event, a lawyer who works for a government agency against drug abuse was also seen. Organizers of the show made sure that no media people witnessed the event ?for obvious reasons,? my source said.

The ?concert tour? raises concerns among BI personnel who feel pressured to sell the tickets just to please their master, the source said. ?Binuang man ni,? one of them protested. ?Dili kaha modaghan ang mga illegal aliens??

* * *

Welcome to Cebu, delegates to the joint biennial convention of the United Church Men (UCM) and Christian Women?s Association (CWA) of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines, Visayas Jurisdiction.

UCM and CWA are among the oldest national Protestant Church-mandated groups in the country, serving as support organizations in promoting Christ?s redemptive teaching, which UCCP principally upholds.

UCM prides itself as group that is well represented in both government and private sectors. Among its prominent members are former president Fidel Ramos, former Senate president Jovito Salonga, and former senators Neptali Gonzales, Juan Flavier, and Orly Mercado (now RPN 9 president and general manager). Among CWA?s esteemed representatives are former first lady Ming Ramos and former senator Leticia Ramos-Shahani.

The holding of the event in Cebu, hosted by Bradford Church, Jones Avenue, is timely amid excruciating concerns affecting the host church.

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