Olongapo SubicBay BatangGapo Newscenter

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Rival political families in near confrontation in Subic

By Tonette Orejas, Inquirer News Service

Two groups of men identified with Sen. Richard Gordon and Zambales Gov. Vicente Magsaysay almost broke into a violent confrontation on Sunday night as each party sought to secure Kalayaan 5000, the official home of the chair of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority at the Subic Bay Freeport.

Retired Gen. Jose Calimlim, SBMA senior deputy administrator for operations and chief of the law enforcement division (LED), on Monday confirmed the 10 p.m. incident at the house which was still occupied by the family of former SBMA Administrator Alfredo Antonio.

According to Calimlim, the first group claimed to have received an order from newly-appointed SBMA Administrator Armand Arreza to secure the house.

The second group, he said, claimed to secure it for newly-designated SBMA Chair Feliciano Salonga.

Interview

Calimlim, in a phone interview, did not say who those men were.

Inquirer sources said five men in the first group were former SBMA security personnel when Gordon was head of the freeport.

Sources said the second group of security personnel was sent by SBMA Director JV Magsaysay, the governor’s son, to bar Arreza from occupying the place.

Gordon denied ordering his men to secure the place for Arreza, his former finance manager at the SBMA. “Why would I do that?” he said.

The senator said he learned that former SBMA policemen tried to help Arreza transfer to the house being vacated by Antonio, his predecessor.

The Magsaysays did not reply to calls or text messages.

Investigation

Calimlim said he rushed to the house and managed to settle the dispute amicably. He said the SBMA is investigating if the men were armed.

The first group came as the Antonio family was hauling out their personal belongings. Antonio, now a member of the Bangko Sentral’s Monetary Board, was not around. He left after last Friday’s turnover rites to Salonga.

Salonga, in a phone interview, said he has no intention to reside at Kalayaan 5000.

Before Antonio, the house was occupied by former SBMA Chair Felicito Payumo. Resigned SBMA Chair Francisco Licuanan did not use Kalayaan 5000 or maintain another house at the Freeport. He would go to Subic only for board meetings and official functions.

Pullout

Gordon also did not live at the house, preferring to use another that his family leased at the port. Until the pullout of the United States Navy in November 1992, the house used to be where the US Admiral stayed.

Salonga said he was reserving Kalayaan 5000 as the official residence of President Macapagal-Arroyo in Subic.

Calimlim said he had the house secured by LED personnel because of Salonga’s order to reserve it for Ms Arroyo and her party when they visit Subic.

“It’s too big for me,” Salonga said of the stately, fully-furnished house on Kalayaan Hill overlooking the southern area of the port.

The President has two homes at the Subic Freeport. Apart from Kalayaan 5000, there is Villa 16, built in 1996, when 21 state leaders, including United States President Bill Clinton, held their Asia-Pacific Economic Summit in Subic.

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