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Pacquiao politics: A grafter in his midst?

GENERAL SANTOS CITY(MindaNews/ 25 August) –A member of the Sarangani Provincial Board who has caught Rep. Manny Pacquiao’s favor was recently convicted by the Sandiganbayan or the anti-graft court of estafa for falsification of public documents.

Provincial Board Member Eugene Alzate was sentenced to 10 to 11 years of prison and fined P5,000 for allegedly siphoning P300,000 from the countryside development fund (CDF) of former Rep. Erwin Chiongbian.  He was also ordered to indemnify the provincial government along with the two other co-accused.

Alzate was also reported to have brought a government-issued vehicle of the province to Cebu City during his wedding in 2003, which also coincided with a study tour of department heads and provincial officials.

At that time, Alzate was a first-term member of the Sarangani Provincial Board.

The Ombudsman also found Alzate guilty of the administrative charges against him and was ordered suspended.  The suspension order, however, became moot and academic after he lost in the 2004 election.

Alzate said he will file a motion for reconsideration over his Sandiganbayan conviction and hinted he will go to the Supreme Court if his petition is denied.

Alzate is positioning himself to become the running mate of Vice Gov. Steve Solon, who is being groomed to run for governor in the province next year.

Solon, whose uncle Roy Chiongbian lost to Pacquiao in the 2010 elections, is now an ally of Pacquiao but the latter calls the shot on who will run or who will be dropped from the line-up of the People’s Champ Movement (PCM), a local political party founded by the 8-division world boxing champion.

Solon will vie for the post that will be vacated by Gov. Miguel Rene Dominguez, who is on his last of three consecutive three-year terms and is no longer eligible to run.  Dominguez has been offered the vice gubernatorial post but is non-committal to future political plans.

Alzate has found his way into the inner political circles of Pacquiao, who is seeking re-election in 2013 after making a political comeback by winning in 2010.

However, he reportedly rubbed off too many in the camp of Pacquiao that his conviction may even be a big welcome rather than cause for alarm.

He reportedly engineered the junking of fellow Provincial Board Member Nene Saguigit, elder sister of Malungon Mayor Reynaldo Constantino, a close political ally of Pacquiao.
Pacquiao lawyer Francisco ‘Bong’ Gacal said Alzate can still file an appeal to the Supreme Court if the Sandiganbayan will deny his motion for reconsideration.

Gacal added that Alzate is not barred from running for an elective post until the Supreme Court rules with finality to uphold his conviction.

Gacal, however, said it would be prudent for Alzate to face his legal woes before vying for higher office.

Will Pacquiao agree with his lawyer and tell Alzate to set aside the latter’s vice gubernatorial ambitions and to come out clean from his legal troubles?

Accommodating Alzate could become a political baggage for Pacquiao, who is not exactly in the good graces of Malacañang.  Besides, for Pacquiao, image is everything now that he is just a few fights away from retirement and just a heartbeat away from winning a Senate seat in 2016. (Edwin G. Espejo/MindaNews contributor)

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