SURIGAO CITY (MindaNews/13 July) – Surigao City Mayor Ernesto T. Matugas is determined to press libel charges against two radio block-timers and a businessman who accused him of irregularity in accepting a P5-million check from a mall magnate.
As soon as his lawyers have prepared the charges, Matugas said he will charge Jamar D. Gavino, Rey O. Culbo and Bernardo A. Pecho with libel. Gavino and Culbo are radio block-timers identified with the camp of the Barbers family, the political opponents of the ruling party, led by the Matugases and Romarates.
Matugas insisted that the P5-million check given by mall owner Henry Gaisano II was “clean money.”
Gavino said their group welcomes the prospect of Matugas seeking redress in courts.
“The mayor has the right to file any case against us, and he should see to it that the case is strong otherwise it may only be dropped at the prosecution level,” Gavino said in the dialect, suggesting that Matugas was only trying to harass them.
In a five-page complaint before the Ombudsman, Gavino and his co-complainants alleged that on March 17, 2011, during the groundbreaking rites of Gaisano Capital, Gaisano handed Matugas the P5-million check drawn from Banco de Oro Cebu Branch.
Gaisano owns other chains of malls and superstores in the Visayas and Mindanao area.
The complainants alleged that the amount was paid in exchange for Gaisano’s entry in the city. Gaisano Capital started building its two-storey mall on a 3.4-hectare area in Barangay Luna last April. In accepting the money, the complainants said Matugas should be held liable for graft because it was tantamount to bribery, noting that Gaisano, as an investor, was likely to ask favors in permits and other licensing requirements for his department store.
But the mayor said no irregularity was involved in the transaction.
“Gaisano purchased a P10.4-million property in my subdivision in Tagaytay, he made a down payment of P5 million. There is a paper trail here, a check was issued and a contract to sell,” Matugas explained.
Matugas, an engineer by profession, is the president of Woodridge Property, Inc.(WPI), a firm that is involved in several realty developments throughout the country. Before he became mayor, Matugas said he had been dealing with Gaisano as a client for years now.
Gavino finds this explanation hard to believe.
“If the land was owned by WPI, then the check should be in WPI’s name because as a corporation, it has a personality separate and distinct from its stockholders,” he said.
Gavino pointed out, too, why the check was deposited in the mayor’s personal account. “And why is it that the check was given to the mayor personally at the time of the groundbreaking, when WPI has its own cashier in its office in Alabang, Muntinlupa?” he added. (Roel N. Catoto / MindaNews)