Opinion: Hazards of the Trade
The First Community Bank (Rural Bank) or "FCBI" has assailed what it labelled as "baseless and malicious allegations" made by Romeo Niere, erstwhileally-turned-critic of Bacolod Mayor Evelio R. Leonardia put insinuating in a recent press conference, certain irregu-larities in the city adminis-tration involving payments of public utility bills allegedly coursed through the said rural bank, among other issues raised in that press conference.
The subject article, titled "Whistleblower Lambasts Payments of City Hall Accounts Through `Familia Incorporada Bank’" was reported to NDB by its reporter-columnist Edgar A. Cadagat in the paper’s July 3, 2012 issue based on the said press conference called by Mr. Romeo Niere a few days earlier.
The article was followed by Mr. Cadagat’s column "Meat of the Matter," in our July 7-8, 2012 issue, subtitled "Who Owns or Controls First Community Bank." In the two write-ups, Mr. Cadagat essentially based his report and opinions on the allegations made by Mr. Niere against the city government and the city mayor with members of the local media in attendance, during which he presented documentary evidence to back up his claims of shenanigans.
NDB regrets the fact that it has failed to verify the allegations made in that press conference called by Mr. Niere himself, but when our attention was called by Mr. Lawrence D. Villanueva, FCBI president, we imme-diately published in our July 10, 2012 issue a rejoinder (feedbacks) to somehow straighten out the alleged baseless and malicious items giving both parties in the controversies the right to present their side in the best tradition of true journalistic approach.
As a form of rectifying our oversight, we wish to reiterate our adherence to the facts as indicated in FCBI counsels’ letter of July 11, 2012 which states in part: "Without any basis in fact, and without even verifying your sources, you brazenly alleged in your news article and column that the Bacolod City Government has been coursing its public utility payments through FCBI and that the supposed payments are allegedly irregular because FCBI is not stable or reliable. You further made baseless and malicious allegations in both your article and column that FCBI is owned by Mr. Evelio Leonardia, the mayor of the City of Bacolod, and his family, and that alleged deposits were being used by the Mayor and his family for irregular purposes.
"These allegations are patently false because the City Government has never paid its CENECO or BACIWA bills through FCBI. Neither is Bacolod City Mayor Leonardia a stockholder of FCBI. FCBI is a stable and well-managed community bank owned by the Villanueva family. The family has been engaged in real estate, and also owns an interest in Imus Rural Bank, one of the oldest and biggest rural banks in the country.
"Clearly, your false, baseless and malicious statements have gravely besmirched the corporate reputation of FCBI that has resulted to its great damage and prejudice. After all, as a rural bank, its business and corporate survival depends on continued public trust and your false and malicious article clearly sought to undermine the public’s trust in FCBI."
Again, let me say on behalf of our management and staff, we’re always willing to accomodate the sides of FCBI and also Mayor Leonardia on this issue to enable our people to know the truth without fear or favor. Sometimes, in our desire to uncover the truth, we also stumble or fall. But deep within, our intenions are noble, and when our sources err, we also suffer the adverse consequennces. Collateral damage, perhaps! Hazards of the trade, they often say. This is one rare occasion that we must say, We’re only human! But we stand on our commitment to always uphold the truth with great responsibility and fairness, respect for everyone’s right to be heard in the interest of trans-parency and human rights, notably press freedom & the spirit of our most cherished democracy in this part of the free world.*