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Tato Mendoza challenges Bongat to media face-off

NAGA CITY—“I dare Mayor John Bongat to a public debate to discuss the relevant issues affecting the people of Naga City,” businessman Fortunato “Tato” Mendoza told the BICOL STANDARD over the weekend.

Tato Mendoza and Mayor John Bongat
SQUARE OFF. Tato Mendoza (left) has challenged Mayor John Bongat to engage in a public debate on controversial issues affecting Naga City. Mendoza and Bongat are both rumored to be eyeing the Naga City mayoralty post in 2016. (Mendoza photo from Alfredo Perdon, Bongat photo from Naga Smiles to the World)

Mendoza said the square off will clarify the controversies surrounding crucial issues such as the Panicuason Water System Association (Pawasa), the Bicol Central Station, peace and order, urban poor, and drug use in the city.

“The people of Naga City have a right to know the truth behind these issues,” he stressed. “It is my firm belief that an informed public will make more intelligent and conscientious decisions, especially with the looming 2016 elections.”

Mendoza said he is considering requesting the Community Advisory Board (CAB) of the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP) to sponsor the discussion.

Despite Mendoza’s dare, Bongat does not seem to want to bite the bullet.

“There is nothing to discuss. I will just concentrate on my job,” Bongat replied.

At odds

It would be recalled that Mendoza and Bongat had been at loggerheads since the city government took over the operation of the Bicol Central Station in January 2014.

Mendoza’s FPM Corporation previously ran the terminal.

With the full backing of the Sangguniang Panlungsod, Bongat stripped Mendoza of his business interests in the management and operation of the facility, then called the Central Business District Terminal.

Mendoza repeatedly maintained that the takeover was a violation of his rights under an existing contract. He had since sought legal recourse.

“I am just waiting for the resolution of the complaints I filed against Bongat and others,” he said, “There are pending cases in court, including  the Office of the Ombudsman”.

More recently, tension was stoked between them anew due to the disconnection of the water connection that services Pawasa.

The city chief executive demanded Mendoza’s resignation from the Board of Directors of the Metro Naga Water District (MNWD), a position for which Bongat earlier appointed him.

“He should resign,” Bongat urged as he discussed the concerns of the Panicuason residents who operate their own water system.

Mendoza was quick to say that Bongat should just wait, because soon enough, he will resign from his position.

Observers said Mendoza’s pronouncement suggested his interest in seeking a political position.

Meantime, the MNWD Board Chairman explained: “We are planning to bring the case of Pawasa to its proper forum, which is the Office of the Ombudsman”, he said.” He did not, however, elaborate on his legal course of action.

Alarming

Mendoza also underscored that apart from the Pawasa and Bicol Central Station issues, a discussion of the increasingly alarming peace and order situation in Naga City is in order.

He referred to the rise in criminality in this city in which 40 percent of the crimes are drug-related, according to a recent report by the Naga City Police Office.

“It is distressing and heartbreaking,” he said, “how our city, once dubbed as Maogmang Lugar, has degenerated into a dangerous, crime-infested turf.”

“But I still believe in the innate goodness of the Naguenos. I still believe we can transform our city into a happy place once again,” he said.

Alignments

Without mentioning his specific plans, Mendoza in the same interview claimed he is closely aligned with Camarines Sur 3rd District Representative Leni Robredo.

Within the next few months, he said he will pursue the instruction of the congresswoman to run a citywide survey on the preference of Naguenos for the next polls.

He also confirmed that he has been in contact with other local leaders who want to support him in case he decides to run for mayor.

Brought up in the interview were the names of Dr. Butch Borja, City Health Officer; Prosecutor Boboy Rosales, a former Punong Barangay of San Felipe, and a three-term City councilor; Atty. Salvador “Badong” del Castillo; Atty. James Jacob, former city councilor and former congressman; former City Councilor Badette Roco, wife of former city mayor and congressman Cho Roco; former city councilor Joe Grageda; and Dr. Jess Albeus, along with several others who requested not to be named.

He also repearedly mentioned that Councilor Nathan Sergio, also a vocal critic of the Bongat administration, has likewise assured him of his support.—BICOLSTANDARD.COM

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