Wednesday, 30 January 2013

EDITORIAL: Mambulao and Ronnie Habitan in spotlight again - badly

FOR ALL the wrong, unpalatable and unflattering reasons, Mambulao, our beloved community, has been thrust under the glare of the national tabloid media - again.

Thanks, but no thanks, to the ill fame of one Mambulaoan whose brand of story is the usual staple of everyday coverage of sensational news.

But then, we should not heap all the blame on Ronnie Habitan, a well-known small-scale miner whose success as a gold-hunter, reach and influence, especially among the powers-that-be in CamNorte, is a legend by itself, with a touch of notoriety.

Habitan, for one thing, never wanted to be in the news.

The simple reason is that any bits about him that saw print – whether newsworthy or not --would open up a Pandora box of worms and ghosts.

He lives by the dictum “no news is good news” and operated below the radar.

But there are things that he can’t avoid and that is being in the public eye, or to be more precise, to be under the scrutiny of the government, who is now wondering if he has been a good businessman-investor, law-abiding and most of all – an honest taxpayer.

Until two weeks ago, Habitan was sitting pretty as he worked sneakily a new business deal that would further boost his financial turf.

With his millions of take from gold operations in Mambulao and elsewhere in CamNorte, he now wanted to diversify into security business – one clever scheme with which to launder his alleged stash from the yellow metal – legally and illegally.

All this was in a hush-hush as the people whom he had been dealing with were personalities that both the police authorities and the media, or course, had particular interests in.

It was supposed to be a top-secret business deal until the Atimonan carnage blew up the front pages of national dailies, exploded TV screens and created noisier speculations among radio loudmouths – from up north down south.

And the surprise name that popped in the news was that of Habitan’s, being the last key man who had been seen by the shooting victims in Atimonan that included a “jueteng” lord, a gun-runner, a killer-for-hire and a few others whose names had taints of mud.

This time, Habitan will be in the news for a much longer time, now that the government tax men will try homing in on his cache of gold bars and cash.

Did he pay his taxes properly?

It would be interesting for the Bureau of Internal Revenue to do some digging into his finances.

The black BMW that has been reported by the national media as sitting in the garage of his “mansion-like”, CCTV-monitored and closely security-guarded residence at Baranggay Plaridel in Jose Panganiban would be a good handle.

It would be a good spot for the BIR with which to begin their tax probe.

Park a BMW anywhere – in New York City, Paris, London, Macau, Tokyo, Sydney, Hong Kong or Manila – and it would immediately radiate one thing: lots of cash in the bank accounts of the owner.

And therefore it is very obvious to the BIR that the man they are zeroing in for the next several weeks has made, and continuously making, heaps and heaps of money from gold.

Time to find out it he paid the right amount of tax; it’s also time for him to hire a good tax consultant.

With his gold and cash, can Habitan make the problem go away?

Now, as a Mambulaoan – whether you are the town mayor, an overseas worker, or a resident or citizen of another country – you certainly don’t want to read in the news something that would give a nasty blot in the image of our community - something like the ones being milked by the media from the Habitan saga.

There are important developments in Mambulao that truly deserve a mention in the news – whether in the regional news outlets like the Bicol News, or any of the national dailies that are now -- sadly -- wringing Mambulao for a much juicier and obviously negative stories such as Habitan’s.

When Meyor Dong managed to slash the cost of a one-kilometer, concrete municipal road to almost half of the usual cost of P10 million under a government-contracted deal, was it mentioned in the news?


But MWBuzz carried the story, thus making overseas Mambulaoans aware that such thing did happen in Mambulao under Meyor Dong’s corruption-free governance, an envy of many good and bad politicians in the province.

The absence of graft in pursuing the road concreting project across the municipality has enabled the LGU-JP to cut the cost, something never seen in the community during the past 60 years.

When the administration of Meyor Dong boosted its revenue collections by more than 50 per cent from the time it took over the previous administration after the 2010 local elections, did Bicol’s regional media bother about it?


But MWBuzz carried the story, explaining how it became possible through computerization of revenue collection, sparking Facebooks comments that said it should have been done before by previous administrations, but did not. Why?

As we had commented in the early editions of MWBuzz, Mambulao sits “on the edge of the world”; it is out of the way to be noticed by the national media for any positive news such as progress and development it could offer to the outside world.

It dawned on us that news like this is no news at all.

But a mere mention of Ronnie Habitan was enough to send the media enterprise going gaga over bits and pieces about him and breezing into town for his story.

Truly, to be in the news is cool.

But being reported in a bad light is not.

Mambulao – our beloved community -- does not deserve to marinate in this puddle of scandal for long.

Ronie Habitan, Mambulaoan himself, did not want it.

He knew that this brouhaha was giving gold – his closest ally - a bad name in Mambulao.

-- Alfredo P Hernandez

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