By Chester Capua (Weekly GoodNews-Regional)

Bayambang – Janice Hidalgo is facing rap for her malicious claims and damaging lies against an honest public servant of Bayambang, Mayor Cezar Quiambao. The video was uploaded and went viral last February 5, 2019, but it was the blotter and her claim of death threats that forced the mayor to file charges.

Recently, a malicious documentary-like video was uploaded to social media. It was the video of Janice Hidalgo that garnered the ire and discord of the Filipinos, especially in the line of media. Last Monday, Mayor Quiambao expressed his sadness and concern about the wrong practice of a certain journalist. In his press conference, the mayor humbly stated that he will not tolerate the blackmailing, and misleading claims of Hidalgo. Present in the press conference are Mayor Cezar Quiambao, Bayambang Municipal Engineer, Engr. Eddie Melicorio, Bayambang OIC-Municipal Accountant, Mrs. Elsie Dulay, Bayambang Municipal Internal Auditor, Mrs. Erlinda Alvarez, Bayambang Municipal Legal Officer, Atty. Raymundo Bautista Jr, running for the Board Member, Ms. Darwina Sampang, Bayambang Municipal Treasurer, Mrs. Luisita Danan and Bayambang Municipal Budget Officer, Mr. Peter Caragan.

The damage she has done caused a stir within the circles of the media. Hidalgo is a fellow colleague in the media industry, a host, and has been known recently because of her viral video that is not only tarnishing the reputation of Mayor Quiambao but her malicious accusations of the mayor’s corruption and malversation of the city’s funds. Sampang, who has a somewhat close relationship with Hidalgo can justify the dubious claims and fabricated lies of the latter. In her statement, it was Sampang who took the initiative of talking to Hidalgo at Lenox Hotel, a hotel chosen by Hidalgo herself.

In their conversation, Hidalgo vehemently boasted her experiences with Cojuangco. And how much money she received, which is equivalent to the staggering price of a building. Sampang asked Hidalgo what help she could give, Hidalgo stated that she could build her up, and conduct an interview. However, Sampang clearly stated that she doesn’t have the means, and the money to pay Hidalgo’s service which the latter told her that it’s okay. Hidalgo again narrated that she was called by Espino, and asked her to stop the video against them. To which Hidalgo answered that it was too late as Espino’s camp wouldn’t afford to pay what Cojuangco has given her. According to Sampang, it was also Hidalgo that opened the topic of the video about Bayambang.

Meanwhile, Hidalgo vehemently asked if there was an offer coming from Mayor Quiambao’s camp. To which Sampang answered that there was never an offer. Sampang explained that Mayor Quiambao doesn’t know about their meet-up, nor any members of the mayor’s family. She reiterated that she was concerned about the welfare of Bayambang so she initiated the talk, and then challenged Hidalgo to simultaneously take a lie detector test. On the other hand, Hidalgo insisted they give her a Hyundai Starex van under her name, in exchange for erasing the video. Sampang debunked all the claims and accusations in the blotter.

Proceeding to the press conference, Mayor Quiambao clarified some important issues surrounding the said allegations in the viral video. The first is about the higher tax rates for business owners in the municipality. Showing the tricycle fees, it was only the annual parking fee that increased by only ₱15. The most affected business taxes were Land Registration Systems Inc (LARES), and STRADCOM, both of which are companies owned by Mayor Quiambao. Second, the ghost projects are nowhere to be found. With a supposedly allocated budget, East West Bank hasn’t yet released the remaining funds for them. The LGU is still waiting for the remaining loan of ₱91,419,809.75 to complete the projects. Third, the issue of who is paying for the loan of the LGU. It was the mayor himself, Mayor Quiambao is the biggest taxpayer of the entire municipality. Fourth is that the clip of Mayor Quiambao included in the video was taken in 2012 and it has nothing to do with the issue. The last is the accusation of not paying taxes on Royal Mall, where the mayor explained it is impossible not to pay it as he already paid the rental 50 years in advance. Mayor Quiambao clearly stated that all the transactions done by his office are transparent.

Mayor Quiambao honestly answered some questions raised by the panel of media outlets. In one of the questions, he clarified the accusations on building the Prayer Park, “By the way, sinasabi nila kaya ako nangutang kasi gingastos natin sa Prayer Park. For the last 2 and a half years, I’ve been quiet. What I have been spending for this town. That prayer park will cost ₱240M, and no single centavo is being spent out of taxpayer’s money (By the way, they keep on saying that the reason why I borrowed money is that we are spending it on the construction of the Prayer Park….)”

“Why civil case? It’s a legal strategy because the civil case goes to RTC. So we will just file damages, even if it will be granted, I filed the ₱5M damages. Okay! Then her next video, it would be the criminal case, then another civil case by prosecution.. so it’s a legal strategy. So, what she earns, is going to spend it in legal cases that we are going to file against her,” Quiambao answered on why he opted for a civil case against Hidalgo.

His wife Mrs. Niña Quiambao has been emotional because of the controversy. She was saddened on why Hidalgo is dragging her husband’s name when Mayor Quiambao’s only intention is to support and uplift the lives of Bayambangueños. No amount of money could leverage his love for Bayambang. No instance was Hidalgo threatened or offered any amount of money because Quiambao believes that Bayambangueños are smart enough to know Hidalgo’s purpose of making a demolition job. A dirty tactic, as the election season is approaching. Before Quiambao ended the press conference, he was grateful for the presence of the media, “..hopefully, we will able to clarify the issues against us, and hopefully this will give a lesson to the media industry that we should have a balanced reporting”.

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