By Nitz Arancon
THE man who complained about the use of the capitol’s heavy equipment and workers for a road construction leading to a Bukidnon farm owned by the Calingin family in 2003 said he had thought that the anti-graft court would no longer convict ex-governor Antonio Calingin.
So it came as a big surprise for former vice governor Miguel de Jesus to learn that the Sandiganbayan decided on March 4 to convict Calingin and slap him with a six-year prison sentence and perpetual disqualification from holding public office.
“Wala matulog ang hustisya sa Pilipinas,” said de Jesus in an interview in his house here late last week.
De Jesus’s complaint against Calingin was the basis of the ombudsman in bringing Calingin to the anti-graft court about a decade ago.
“I did not expect nga ingon niini ang decision sa korte kay dugay na man kaayo ni nga kaso,” said de Jesus.
De Jesus said he was the one who signed the complaint against Calingin “on behalf of the people of Misamis Oriental.”
De Jesus became acting governor when Malacanang slapped Calingin with a six-month suspension order in late 2003 based on an administrative complaint against the then governor.
A confluence of events resulting from de Jesus’s graft case against Calingin led to the 2004 election of the then congressman Oscar Moreno as governor of the province. That year, de Jesus ran for congressman in the province’s 1st District under Moreno’s ticket and lost.
De Jesus recounted how the capitol’s heavy equipment were used in constructing a road leading to the Calingin family’s potato plantation in Talakag, Bukidnon.
“Sa akong pagka acting governor adtong panahona, akong gipa-check asa na ang mga heavy equipment sa kapitolyo kay wala man maayo ang mga kadalanan sa lalawigan sa naglingkod pa si Bong(Calingin) pagka governor,” recalled de Jesus.
When he found out about it, de Jesus said he immediately tasked Vice Gov. Norris Babiera, who was then a member of the provincial board, to form a team to locate and retrieve all the heavy equipment of the capitol.
De Jesus said he was happy with the decision of the Sandiganbayan because “the people of Misamis Oriental have finally been given justice.”
Calingin, in a statement, said he tasked his lawyers to appeal the case and added that the Sandiganbayan ruling would not affect his candidacy. The ex-governor is running for congressman in the province’s 2nd District.
Calingin also accused his political opponents of being behind the decision of the anti-graft court.
One of his three major opponents, provincial board member Jesus Jardin, said the anti-graft court’s decision was victory as far as the people of Misamis Oriental are concerned despite the “delay.” He said the decision should have been made years ago.
Jardin also frowned over Calingin’s assertion that the Sandiganbayan decision was a “demolition job.”
“Dili man matawag nga usa kini ka ‘demolition job’ kay korte naman ang nag-decision. Mas maayo nga dawaton na lamang ni Calingin ang hukom sa husgado,” said Jardin.
The camp of ex-congressman Augusto Baculio, also a candidate for congressman in the 2nd District, also reacted to Calingin’s pronouncements.
Richard Vallar, who works in the campaign group of Baculio, said he doubted if the anti-graft court’s ruling would qualify as a “demolition job.”
“Nganong ma-demolition job man nga si Calingin daghan man ug kaso,” said Vallar. “Mas maayo pa atobangon ni Calingin ang hokom sa Sandiganbayan kay sa iyang akosahan ang mga tawo nga kontra sa iyang politika nga walay labot sa iyang kaso.”