Replace OPAV Dino
Replace OPAV Dino
Good day President-Mayor Rodrigo Roa Duterte,
We fervently hope this letter-appeal reaches you soonest. This is about the official who represents you here in the Visayas and, unfortunately, gives you a bad name. After reading this, we hope you will find the wisdom of replacing Sec. Mike Dino of the Office of the Presidential Assistant for the Visayas (OPAV).
“Mga bogo silang tanan.” Your representative verbally abused us during a press conference with Secretaries Roy Cimatu, Eduardo Año, Delfin Lorenzana, Carlito Galvez, and Francisco Duque III last June 23, 2020 at the SEDA Hotel. This insult of Secretary Dino on Cebuanos triggered this online petition.
Secretary Dino mistakenly thought falsely blaming the opposition freed him from blame for the mess he wrought on Cebu. Nakatugkad na mi sa kalaki ni OPAV Dino, Mr. President.
Rapid Test Kit Anomaly
Byron Garcia, the brother of Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia and former Cebu provincial consultant, has been exposing documents about the anomalies in the purchases by Cebu City Hall during the pandemic. The documents that included purchase orders of rice and canned goods also contained details about certain procurements of rapid test kits.
The Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) should investigate these purchases because it would shed more light into how OPAV and certain Cebu City officials earned millions and messed up the city’s anti-COVID-19 response.
The controversial purchases of test kits began surfacing in the news when Cebu City councilors questioned why the executive department took weeks in April 2020 to ask for Council approval long after the procurement. The rapid test kits were used in the mass testing campaign boasted by Cebu City Mayor Edgar Labella.
Initial news reports showed that Cebu City Hall bought rapid test kits worth P30,000 million from the P1 billion lump sum approved by the Cebu City Council.
We noted that in mid-April, there was the initial spike of COVID-19 positive cases in an urban poor area in Sitio Zapatera, Barrio Luz. Confusion about the initial reports led to the controversial Facebook post and arrest of local film maker Bambi Beltran. It was obvious to Cebuanos that Cebu City Hall Mayor Edgardo Labella wanted to silence critics of how he was managing the COVID-19 pandemic.
While the mass testing campaign began on April 14, 2020, Mayor Labella only announced in his Facebook page the plan to test 23,000 residents before the supposed end of ECQ on May 15, 2020 in response to questions from Cebu City councilors.
On May 8, 2020, Cebu City Health chief Dr. Daisy Villa broke down during a Council session when she was blamed for the disarray in testing Barrio Luz residents. During this session, the involvement of OPAV’s Project Bagong Buhay came to light, thanks to OPAV advocate Councilor Raymond Alvin Garcia.
It should interest graft investigators that mass testing began in April 14, but the Cebu City Council majority approved the conduct of the mass testing campaign only on May 8, 2020 to remedy the awkward situation. On the May 20, 2020 Council session, councilors questioned the scientific basis for the mass testing guidelines.
The corruption-laden and incompetent implementation of the messed-up campaign made Cebu City the number one in COVID-19 cases in the archipelago. This prompted the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) in Manila to re-impose the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) from June 15 to 30, 2020.
Curiously, OPAV only began admitting its role in the purchase of the test kits and brands it acquired in late May when Byron Garcia began posting documents to support allegations of anomalies in media and social media.
Mr. President, in an apparent cover up and damage control when you sent Secretary Cimatu and the four other secretaries, ASEC Jonji Gonzales supposedly revealed in an afterthought a donation of testing machines and rapid test kits by the Christina Lee Dino Foundation (CLDF) in March.
Because of corruption and incompetence by OPAV and Mayor Labella, Cebuanos are now suffering under a second round of ECQ.
OPAV control or Mayor Labella
Mr. President, the Department of Interior and Local Governments (DILG) should easily verify that OPAV Mike Dino, a businessman based in Cebu, has been focusing on Cebu, not the other places in the Visayas. In particular, he plays "master" of the local chief executives of the three Highly Urbanized Cities (HUCs): Cebu City, Mandaue City, and Lapulapu City.
This is especially true in Cebu City, perhaps the biggest treasure of all LGUs, where the government of Mayor Edgar Labella, a first-time Mayor, a former Deputy Ombudsman, and supposedly a clean and honest man, is reputed to be at the constant beck and call of the OPAV boss, where massive business transactions of the city are involved.
Throughout the last twelve months, Cebuanos have come to tolerate the fact that our City Mayor has become a "puppet” of the OPAV. That is the first sad part. The second is that Mike Dino, having pooled power and resources to protect his exposed interests, is infamous for two things: first, he nourishes the Cebu City Mayor’s men with various allowances. And second, he silences his critics with his infamous troll army who mercilessly counterattack anyone, mostly well-meaning private citizens.
Indeed, the Cebu City Officials troop to his office on a regular basis for his guidance and nourishment. Also, their social media trolls hold office in the OPAV’s IT offices, with another troll base in the Cebu City Hall, under Cebu City Administrator Floro Casas.
Mike Dino’s use of social media trolls date back during the election campaign to kick out Tomas Osmeña. Perhaps inspired by that victory, OPAV has maintained its army of social media trolls using public funds to destroy the reputation, using the filthiest below-the-belt memes to embarrass and humiliate Cebu’s noblest constructive critics and patriots. This filthy tactic is known far and wide in Cebu.
Cebuanos continue to wonder how this culture is thriving here when the President himself never deploys trolls to massacre those who criticize him. Because you, Mr. President, you address the unfair criticism yourself. But this is not what is happening in Mike Dino’s kingdom in Cebu. His trolls create fake accounts to murder the reputation of anyone who dares to criticize OPAV (especially if he or his Assistant, Jonjie Gonzales, is named), and the administration of Cebu City Mayor Labella (particularly if the name of City Administrator Floro Casas is also mentioned.)
Worse, we learned that he gives substantial allowances to certain members of mainstream media to ignore pressing issues involving his office or the offices of his "minions" especially from Cebu City Hall.
In Cebu City, Mayor Labella is being severely and summarily criticized as a weak leader as he willingly submits himself to Sec. Mike Dino’s whims and caprices. Big respectable businessmen, all of them your staunch allies, Mr. President, may even be losing trust and confidence in you, simply because Sec. Mike Dino makes them feel how close he is, not only to you, Mr. President; but even more so, to your closest ally, Sen. Bong Go. Around Cebu, Sec. Mike Dino has created for himself that reputation, that of being "untouchable". Untouchable to the extent that even local government officials who know his style and his dealings, they keep mum as they are also threatened with either new cases or a revival of old cases before the Ombudsman.
And in the wider Visayas area, governors and mayors have been trying to reach you, Mr. President, to tell you how OPAV makes resolutions or circulars ordering Local Chief Executives to execute his orders. Just at the onset of this corona crisis, reports of these patently illegal OPAV circulars must have reached your office.
We would have preferred to keep quiet, Mr. President, for our own peace. But this pandemic is a matter of life and death. And Mike Dino and his cohorts and puppets have exploited the crisis for their own vested interests, be it the consolidation of power or the accumulation of more personal wealth, at the expense of the people, especially the poorest of the poor.
At the onset of this crisis, Cebu City Mayor Labella approved the release of P1 Billion from the city’s coffers supposedly to fund all COVID-19 related efforts. Equipped with the power to come up with Executive Orders, Mayor Labella caused an uproar amongst President Duterte's supporters.
Whilst the President seemed desperately seeking funds from all sources to finance the Bayanihan To Heal As One Act”, even entertaining the option of selling government-owned properties, here comes an LGU extremely eager and even reckless in releasing a hefty P1 Billion from public funds without proper plans in place yet.
Even you, Mr. President, you report to Congress every single week to account for every centavo being spent. But here in Cebu City, many times the members of the Cebu City Council, until today, continue to ask questions, for itemized breakdowns, for update reports. To no avail. There is indeed no transparency here in Cebu City, Mr. President.
Overpriced Relief Goods
Once again, in their trademark amateurish recklessness, the Cebu City Government through the Bids and Awards Committee (BAC), in a resolution signed by Cebu City Administrator Atty. Jun Casas, recommended to Mayor Labella the release of P49.5 million to include the purchase of 60,000 packed meals, indicating that each packed meal will contain rice, vegetable, main dish (either beef, fish or pork), desert and bottled water.
All of Cebu went up in arms. Everyone who scrutinized the Purchase Order computed the deal at P850 per packed meal. However, City Administrator Jun Casas was quick to defend his act through his Facebook account, maintaining that only P6M was for packed meal or only P100 per food pack. He went on to justify that the P35M was for 25,000 sacks of rice in 25-kilo packs, and P7.5M for 3,000 sacks in 50-kilo packs.
In short, Cebu City procured a 25-kilo sack of well-milled rice at P1,400 per sack, and a 50-kilo sack of well-milled rice at P2,500 per sack. But we all know that these are way above off-the-shelf retail prices. Because indeed, a 50-kilo sack of well-milled rice retails only around P1,800 per sack. Imagine then the wholesale equivalent. Other LGUs in the Visayas are even buying premium Jasmin Rice for only P2,100 on retail! They further explained that the remaining P990,000 in the budget was for canned goods, where it gets even worse.
Per records, Cebu City procured a can of sardines from a huge Cebu City wholesale-retail store for P22, when we all can get a can of sardines even at P15, a retail price available from any supermarket. The worst part was when Atty. Floro Casas justified these overpriced deals with a Facebook post comparing the price of his sardines at P22 per can versus that of Tomas Osmeña’s P27 per can. Indeed, what a
Per records, Cebu City procured a can of sardines from a huge Cebu City wholesale-retail store for P22, when we all can get a can of sardines even at P15, a retail price available from any supermarket. The worst part was when Atty. Floro Casas justified these overpriced deals with a Facebook post comparing the price of his sardines at P22 per can versus that of Tomas Osmeña’s P27 per can. Indeed, what a truly malicious manipulation of public opinion by summoning a dishonest act to justify his very own dishonesty.
Politicized Distribution of Relief Aid
Instead of using duly elected Barangay Officials, Cebu City has deputized City Hall-appointed personnel called MILO (Mayor's Information and Liaison Officers) to distribute emergency relief aid to barangay constituents. This clearly defies your direction, Mr. President, to assign Barangay Officials to distribute financial assistance and food items to constituents.
It is said that Mayor Labella appointed MILOs in barangays with non-allied barangay captains. These MILOs, allies of the current City Hall administration, were profiled as either defeated candidates for Barangay Captain or for City Councilor.
As expected, there was confusion and anarchy in the barangays. Even the financial assistance for seniors were given to the MILOs to distribute. Citizens are calling the system foul, political, divisive, unfair, and immoral. Multitudes of constituents indeed never received aid until today.
Sources say that this Neanderthal political move emanated from the office of Sec. Mike Dino. And that Mayor Labella had no choice, as always, but to comply. It is important to note that these so-called MILOs cannot be held as these are not elected officials. Thus, they are not supposed to be allowed to handle the distribution of goods and financial assistance coming from the government. Clearly, again, this is against government policy.
Through the efforts of Cebu City Councilor Raymond Garcia, the city government resorted to an online ECQ Portal (PassApp) system to issue electronic ECQ passes. This reportedly developed only after City Hall ran out of printed ECQ passes.
People complained about the lack of passes and also the slow distribution. At the checkpoints, people either presented printed ECQ passes or online editions, so much so that Cebuanos found a very convenient excuse to leave homes, and drive around the city to go to different places because a household would have as many as an ECQ pass for each.
At some point, this caused horrendous traffic in key city roads, leading no less than LTO Director Victor Caindec, supposedly allied with Sec. Mike Dino and Mayor Edgar Labella, to literally plead and beg Mayor Labella to put his weight once and for all, to control the traffic anarch
All these problems emanated from Cebu City’s online portal, reportedly worth P6.4 million. Also, in the last stage of the online process, all registrants had to check a box to permit the developer to use all information entered into the portal for commercial use, yet another clear violation of the fundamental right to data privacy.
Indeed, it was Cebu City Councilor Raymond Garcia who introduced a certain American IT developer by the name of Bryan Mueler. The project may have been aborted, and questions continue to linger around what happened to the deal with the American supplier.
In contrast, it is important to note that a multi-awarded Cebuano DOST scholar and IT Developer by the name of Eddie Ybañez provided a contact-tracing app called WeTrace free of charge to the Province of Cebu through Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia. This is now being used by Cebu Province and the Regional PNP. Indeed, Cebu Province was the first one to come up with a tracing app in the country.
Constructing A Shady New Facility
Cebu City Hall, under the influence again of the OPAV, hastily decided to build from scratch a P100 million COVID-19 quarantine facility (cum future warehouse) on prime real estate land at the North Reclamation Area, near SM City Cebu.
That premium space was said to be allotted for a city warehouse, which is unusual because the city already has a warehouse at the South Road Properties (SRP). Why indeed will they need a new warehouse? Nonetheless, they were still able to include the project in their Annual Investment Fund.
To expedite the construction of what was supposedly a warehouse, they found an easy way out to skip bidding by building instead COVID-19 quarantine facility. In their press releases, they promised to complete a 200-bed COVID-19 facility in 10 days. But 10 days passed, and nothing was completed. Because of mockery from citizens and pressure from media, they forced an inauguration of the facility last April 25, over a month delayed. It looked more like a plain warehouse than a medical facility.
On June 9, Mayor Labella admitted that the roof was leaking and needed repairs.
Indeed, they held a VIP party for the opening rites, where Sec. Mike Dino, in his speech, indirectly lambasted Cebu City Vice Mayor Mike Rama. He chided the Vice Mayor Rama because the Vice Mayor was increasingly becoming critical of the Cebu City Executive’s actions, which clearly were mostly the policies of OPAV.
Probably more aware now of the issues confronting them, Sec. Mike Dino announced in his speech that they have saved half of the P100M budget because of "donations" from private individuals. But more questions sprouted: Who donated? How much? Why put donations on a non-strategic construction when there are more pressing concerns like front liners' support, barangay assistance, and similar urgencies?
Up to this day, the Cebu City government has not released the details of this project. No one knows the name of the contractor, the source of funds, the project duration, and the project cost. There is not even a billboard mounted on the property detailing information as mandated by law. It is important to note that even major places as NCR only utilized existing buildings such as the Rizal Coliseum, PICC, World Trade Center, privately-owned structures as the Philippine Arena, MOA, and even 2Go terminals and vessels as COVID-19 quarantine facilities.
Most unusually, at some point, Bigfoot Film Academy, an ardent supporter of former Mayor Tomas Osmeña, offered their unused building at the South Road Properties through Vice Mayor Rama and the minority Councilors. They wrote to Mayor Labella about the generous offer. But Mayor Labella wrote back to decline the offer, citing reasons such as the absence of electrical or water connections to the building. Strangely indeed, one can ask why they chose to build something from scratch at the North Reclamation Area where clearly, there was neither power nor water utilities from the very beginning?
Eventually, the Cebu City Council was able to allot P50 million for the quarantine project at the SRP.
P240M Command Center
Right in the middle of a public health crisis where every Cebuano is trying to survive whilst crying for ayuda, Cebu City is prioritizing vanity infra projects over emergency but strategic public health facilities. Cebu City Mayor Labella is now asking the Cebu City Council for P240 million, a budget appropriation that is supposedly a part of Cebu City’s Supplemental Budget No. 3 for 2020. Councilor Raymond Garcia, head of the council’s committee on budget and finance, confirmed that the appropriation will fund an 8-storey command center patterned after other LGUs such as the one in Davao City.
The proponents say that the new building is part of Mayor Labella’s campaign promise. But Cebuanos are confused and angry. Cebuanos have not seen any accountability whatsoever from the still-unfinished P100M COVID-19 facility at the NRA (please see the sixth issue in this paper) and the long-unfinished Cebu City Medical Center (CCMC).
True, this Command Center promises to be an all-in-one hub for coordination of all essential law enforcement departments.
But Mr. President, there is a time for command centers, and there is a time for hospitals. Now is not the time for building P240M command centers. It is indubitably wiser to reserve resources for the emergency needs relating to the life and death of constituents, such as saving the poorest of the poor and the SMEs in distress. After all, these law enforcers can still function efficiently given the present set-up. The bigger question, indeed, is why is a command center being pushed by Cebu City Hall’s Floro Casas and Joey Daluz, rather than the Cebu City Medical Center, a hospital facility for the poor, for these exact circumstances?
OPAV as Cebu’s Government Business “Concierge”.
In Cebu, it has become public knowledge that all major government projects must pass through the eye of Mike Dino’s needle. One can ask any businessmen (Local, National, International) involved in major government projects in all of Cebu island. All of them will say that they all needed to pass through Sec. Mike Dino. The sad part, even small businessmen with small-time ventures in his "controlled turf" such as the South Road Properties (SRP) have to get his "go signal" in concurrence with Mayor Edgar Labella, and through their common cohort, Atty. Joey Daluz.
SRP is where Filinvest, SM Group and Ayala have business interests, amongst others. Even these large business establishments cannot freely transact with other people or groups for income-generating activities around the area without the clearance and approval of Sec. Mike Dino. One can ask Filinvest SVP Tristan Las Marias in confidence, and he will surely validate this. Late 2019, one of Cebu's landmark heritage hotels, Montebello Villa Hotel, owned by the old Cebuano family, the Borromeos, sold their hotel. It was Sec. Mike Dino behind the sale. It is now being managed by one of his children. The Dinos in Cebu never had huge business holdings. The hotel was sold at around P2.2 billion.
Rising Covid-19 Cases
Mr. President, amidst all these, the number of COVID-19 cases in Cebu City are rising, consistently in second place now after Quezon City, a city three times our population.
Our Mayor, Edgardo Labella has been tagged, almost unanimously by Cebuanos as the "Urong Sulong Mayor". Usually careless with his announcements, he retracts his own pronouncements in the midst of violent reactions, even within minutes, except of course policies dictated by the Office of the Presidential Assistant for the Visayas.
His administration, led by a City Administrator who co-manages trolls to silence all kinds of opposition, is in shambles. This is clearly manifested by Cebu City Barangays topping the highest concentration of COVID community transmissions in the country. There is a breakdown of discipline in the city. All over social media amongst Cebuanos, the most common question is around “Who is the City’s Mayor?”, alluding not only about the confusion as to the many little mayors at City Hall; but also the existence of a higher power, the OPAV, that is dictating every strategic policy move of the 3 Highly Urbanized City Mayors, especially where there is a chance to make a business deal and earn a profit.
Mayor Labella's known "cohorts" in all these dealings, especially with the OPAV, are the following: Former Special Assistant to the Mayor, Atty. Joey Daluz (recently appointed MCWD Chairman by no less than Mayor Labella); Councilor Raymond Alvin Garcia; City Administrator Atty. Floro Casas, Jr.; and City Legal Chief, Atty. Rey Gealon.
On the side of Sec. Mike Dino, his cohorts are the following: Asec. Jonjie Gonzales, and a certain Mike Pato. Atty Joey Daluz and Councilor Raymond Alvin Garcia are also his "links" to the city government in planning, strategizing, positioning and execution of all his blatantly selfish, highly questionable, and irregular activities. These two Cebu City Hall core cohorts are regularly reporting to Mike Dino and are reputed to be "the chief architects and planners of big, meaty strategic projects".
Also, OPAV’s building is on a high-end commercial building (The Greenery) when he is supposed to be within reach to the people especially the masses to whom the President is mostly concerned about. His office look is certainly not aligned with the humble, modest taste of our President.
As the President’s extension in the Visayas, he could have also extended the same amount of help and focus to other LGUs, yet, only to a selected few, that is, only in Cebu. Ask the other provinces in the Visayas. Why? Because it only in Cebu where he can control the Mayors and he can dictate on them anything he wants that could also benefit him on a personal level.