Cagayan town mayor asks Aquino to remove CEZA chief

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SANTA ANA, Cagayan: The town’s chief executive here asked President Benigno Aquino 3rd to replace the “slack” leadership of the Cagayan Economic Zone Authority (CEZA) for a better working relationship.

”Anybody but Chelly,” Mayor Darwin Tobias told media men in case the President decides to replace the CEZA chief administrator referring to Jose Mari Ponce.

Tobias said he has sent a letter via a Presidential adviser asking the President to replace Ponce “which is a matter of serious concern to our national interest.”

Secretary Manuel Mamba, head of the Presidential Legislative Liaison Office, said his office has already forwarded the letter to the President for his “immediate and appropriate action.”


Tobias said “our bridges have been burned and what is mostly affected here is the delivery of basic services to the people as well as the expected progress and development in this town which have long been delayed by the slack CEZA leadership.”

During the recently held May 13 elections, Ponce’s son Alphonse Jean (AJ) Ponce, then a first termer board member, ran for mayor against Tobias, then incumbent mayor, but lost.

Ponce’s wife Wilfreda also ran for Councilor of Santa Ana but also lost.

In his letter to the President, the mayor said “Administrator Chelly has illegally and shamelessly used the resources and facilities of CEZA to support the candidacy of Ponce’s son and wife as UNA [United Nationalist Alliance] and NPC [National People’s Coalition] candidates for mayor and councilor respectively.”

Tobias alleged in his letter that Ponce “had raised campaign funds for UNA candidates from the locators of CEZA [and that]the Ponces conducted rampant vote-buying, voters’ intimidation and acts of terrorism.”

Criticizing the policies of Ponce, Tobias said “it is time we change the leadership for the sake of a better working relationship between the local government and CEZA administration.”

However, CEZA Senior Deputy Administrator Nilo Aldeguer has denied accusations of a “slack” leadership by Ponce.

“We love our administrator so much. We fully support him. He is responsible for what is CEZA now,” said Aldeguer in a telephone interview.

Aldeguer said that under Ponce’s leadership, “we were able to generate business investments and employment as well as boosted tourism in the area.”

”In fact Santa Ana is now on its way to a first class municipality from a fifth to fourth class when Administrator Ponce took over the reins of CEZA in 1995, now generating millions of pesos for the national coffers,” he said.

”[Tobias’ accusations in his letter] are baloney and preposterous. Our administrator never utilized the resources of CEZA for the candidacy of his son and wife. I should know that because I am very much aware of the very details of the activities at CEZA,” Aldeguer said.

He said: “It is all politics. The elections are over. Let’s leave politics behind us. We should now work to further advance the economic gains of CEZA and the municipality.”

Recently, Tobias and the young Ponce, called AJ, have filed against each other charges of attempted murder, violation of election gun ban and obstruction of justice.

AJ alleged that Tobias’ men fired at them in front of their campaign headquarters in Barangay Santa Cruz on May 12.

But Tobias denied this saying his vehicle used by his campaign supporters was actually fired at and riddled with 16 bullets.

”My service vehicle Starex Van was even ambushed at 12:30 early morning of May 13, 2013 in front of Phoenix Gas Station owned by [Ponce],” Tobias said.

Worst he said, his car was mistakenly reported by a national TV network as that of Ponce’s.

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