Senate probes Subic ‘raid’
SUBIC BAY FREEPORT — Top officials of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) will appear today before the Senate committee on government-owned corporations to shed light on the reported confrontation last Sunday between two warring political camps at Kalayaan 5000, the official residence of the SBMA chairman, at the Subic Bay Freeport.
According to SBMA sources, Sen. Richard Gordon, who chairs the committee, has invited newly appointed SBMA chairman Feliciano Salonga, administrator Armand Arreza and senior deputy administrator for operations Jose Calimlim to the inquiry.
The top SMBA officials earlier had begged off from answering media queries about the incident, saying they would only give their statements to the Senate panel.
The incident, which threw the SBMA into confusion, occurred just two days after Salonga and Arreza formally assumed their posts.
According to an incident report of the SBMA Intelligence and Investigation Office (IIO), six Olongapo City residents, claiming to be volunteers for Arreza, proceeded to the SBMA chairman’s residence at the Kalayaan housing area to secure it at about 1:30 p.m. last Sunday.
The six were identified as Ronaldo Fernandez, Garizaldy Tolentino, Eddie Garcia, Rene Tolentino, Ismael Bautista, and John Tabares, all known to be Gordon’s followers.
However, at about 11:30 p.m., Zambales Gov. Vicente Magsaysay and his son, SBMA director Jesus Victor "JV" Magsaysay, arrived in the area reportedly to reserve the same housing unit for Salonga.
Some policemen accompanied the Magsaysays, the IIO report said.
Members of the SBMA’s law enforcement department (LED), who rushed to the area to investigate, reportedly persuaded Magsaysay’s group to have a peaceful dialogue with Arreza’s men.
However, a "commotion" ensued when the two groups met each other, the IIO said.
Meanwhile, the Magsaysays cried foul over reports, which they said portrayed them as warlords and gun-toting goons, pointing out that they were "not the bandits they have been pictured to be."
JV Magsaysay said they simply responded to Salonga’s call, contrary to reports that they forced their way into the house.
"We went there to check on a call from Chairman Salonga that some people trespassed into the Kalayaan 5000 house and so I called on the LED to check. When we got there, there were six men lurking inside the house, which at that time was not lighted," he said.
He said LED head Col. Jaime Calunsag was there to prevent any untoward action by the house "raiders."
"We are not bandits. We just tried to be good citizens and check on a house that was reported to have been ‘invaded,’" he added.
Reports said Arreza’s men had claimed that they had come to "secure" the house, which was the residence of former SBMA administrator Alfredo Antonio.
Antonio’s son, Bobong, however, was still in the house packing his things when the six men got there. He reportedly asked them who they were.
The younger Antonio later checked with the local authorities and found out that the six men were not from the LED and that they had no official credentials, except that they were former SWAT men of Gordon, a former SBMA chairman.
Sources from the LED, who requested not to be named, said an unidentified caller rang up their office, prompting them to dispatch a team to investigate at about 10 p.m.
Calunsag and his men later arrested the six men, who were found to be in possession of two short firearms.
The incident has reportedly further fanned the political rivalry between the Magsaysay and Gordon camps.
Salonga and Arreza, however, released a statement last Tuesday, both vowing to work together to propel the Subic Freeport into a self-sustaining and prime investment center.
The two also agreed that the Kalayaan house, which became the center of the turf war, be designated as the official residence of President Arroyo during her visits to Subic.
They added that their mandate is to continue their predecessor’s initiatives