MASBATE CITY, Masbate – Going to work weekdays at the provincial capitol of Masbate is no longer the same to employees since Governor Rizalina Lanete surrendered herself to authorities last Wednesday.
Employees like Masbate’s provincial spokesperson Merien Efver said they feel like they are now in a “limbo” after the governor turned herself in on the same day that the Sandiganbayan released an arrest warrant against her for her alleged involvement in the multimillion Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) scam when she was still a congressman representing the province.
She said the overall atmosphere in the provincial capitol and the province itself can only be described as “gloomy.”
“But we continue with our day-to-day jobs despite the heaviness we are feeling now,” she said.
Florentino Atazar, assistant provincial administrator of Masbate, said that he and provincial administrator Jose Tamayo shared the responsibilities and duties of Lanete’s office up until the Provincial Council decided temporarily transfer leadership to Vice Governor Vince Revil as officer-in-charge. Revil was Lanete’s running mate during the 2010 elections under the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC).
Efver said Lanete, who was now on her second term as governor of Masbate, was aiming for a reelection on 2016 because she is still yet to complete the Cultural Center she was building for Masbate in Masbate City and was dreaming of a housing project for capitol employees.
Michael Marcaida, legal officer of Masbate, said he strongly believes that the accusations against Lanete were all mere allegations by Benhur Luy which are unsupported by any concrete evidence.
Marcaida, who was one of Lanete’s former lawyers handling her case when it was still with the Ombudsman, said he was initially confident that Lanete would not be issued an arrest warrant or be filed a formal case because the “evidences” presented by Luy against her had holes all over it.
“I could not understand why the Ombudsman honored Luy’s statements to come up with a probable cause against her because even Luy admitted that he never met Gov. Dayan (Lanete) or had any meeting with her where there was a transaction,” he said.
Marcaida said that he wholeheartedly fought to clear Lanete from the allegations that she received P108.4 million in kickbacks from allocations of her PDAF to fake non-government organizations supposedly owned by businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles because of what he read from Napoles’ affidavit.
He said that Napoles stated in her affidavit that Lanete refused the cash that was being offered to her and instead asked for additional projects for her province.
“When I came to know of that exchange between the governor and Napoles, I knew that she can never do whatever they say she did to the public funds,” he said.
Amy Danao, head of Masbate’s Provincial Social Welfare and Development Officer, said she can say for herself that Lanete if not one to take anything from the public funds based on the way she worked as a leader.
She said that the governor would rather give what she had to others which she manifested with the free lunches that she shares five times every week with casual employees under her.
She also said that Lanete shoulders some of her employees’ housing expenses, especially the casual ones, so that their take home pay of a little over P5,000 would remain intact for their families.
“A lot would go hungry here without her,” Atazar said.
He said Lanete’s scholars were also worried that their education would no longer be supported should Lanete remains in jail and prevented from exercising her powers and duties as governor of Masbate.
The provincial government of Masbate, during Lanete’s second term as governor, pays for half the tuition fee of at least 800 students in two schools in the province.
Atazar said he does not know yet what would become of the assistance or program for these scholars now that Lanete is detained for plunder charges at Camp Bagong Diwa.
Both Efver and Marcaida said they believe the allegations might be politically motivated because Lanete might have angered some for her imposition of discipline among the capitol employees and pressure to work harder after she assumed office.
Tears and prayers
Meanwhile, holding back his sadness, Placer town Mayor Joshur Judd Lanete, eldest son of the governor, refused to comment on his mother’s plight after the Sandiganbayan refused their lawyers’ petition to have her detained in Camp Crame.
Her eyes brimming with tears, Efver said she can only imagine the loneliness and hardship that Lanete is suffering now with her solitary confinement at Camp Bagong Diwa where she is being detained with Napoles and Gigi Reyes.
“Knowing her, she doesn’t like it when she has no one to talk to. She wants people around her,” she said.
Efver said Lanete opted to surrender in order for her children, including Masbate Representative Scott Davies Lanete who was also among those allegedly involved in the PDAF scam.
She said Lanete does not want any more “noise” or media attention focused on her children and she saw her surrender as a way to decrease negative publicity.
“She never wanted to talk to media about the case which was why she never entertained national media who come here to interview her,” she said.
Although she never showed it, Efver said they knew Lanete was constantly anxious and worried over the case.
“Marunong kasi siya magdala (She knows how to deal with her feelings). Whenever there are visitors, she welcomes them as if nothing is wrong. But maybe when she steps out of the office and is alone at home, she might be feeling all anxious about it,” Danao said.
Efver said they are praying that Lanete would survive what they call “the biggest challenge” in her life.
She said they also hope that the truth would prevail soon.
Prayers were being said in daily petition Mass at the churches of Masbate forLanete as initiated by the Diocese of Masbate, Efver said.
Placer Vice Mayor Nilo Du, in his speech during the Himag-Ulaw Festival in their town last week, appealed to the gathered crowd to pray for Mayor Lanete’s mother.
Efver said the absence of Lanete in the festival which produces Masbate’s best street dancers with award-winning street dance performances in Bicol slightly dampened the fanfare in Placer where his son sits as mayor.
She said even the people feel for Lanete’s children, especially Joshur who had accompanied his mother when she surrendered at Camp Crame and came home despite emotional burdens to attend and oversee the festival.
“We are one with her,” Atazar summed up their thoughts for Lanete.
Rizalina Seachon-Lanete was born in Cebu City on December 30, 1951 and was fondly called Dayan or Lina
Before Lanete was elected as governor, she has been the representative of the 3rd District of Masbate for two consecutive terms, the 13th and 14th Congress.
She authored, co-authored and supported bills such as: providing for the extension of the CARP (Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program), providing for cheaper medicines, promoting the welfare and protection of women and children, and strengthening the educational system in the country. She was the Vice Chairperson of the House Committee on Appropriations, House Committee on Public Order and Safety, and House Special Committee on Reforestation.
Lanete’s infrastructure projects include two roll-on roll-off ports in the Cawayan and Esperanza in Masbate, concreting of 32-kilometer Buenavista-Cawayan and 35-kilometer Cataingan-Esperanza roads, improvement of numerous barangay roads and construction of multi-purpose buildings in the 3rd Congressional District of Masbate.
She was recognized as one of The Most Outstanding Congressmen by Congress Magazine during her first and second terms in Congress.
During her terms as governor of Masbate, Lanete completed the Masbate Provincial Hospital located in Masbate City as well as other barangay roads in the province.
Lanete has three sons: Joshur Judd who is on his third term as mayor of Placer town; doctor Scott Davies who is on his second term as Congressional representative of Masbate’s third district; and Jesi Howard who is a law student.