Tony Leviste cries foul
By Arthur Rufo
I am greatly disappointed that what you purported to be an interview turned out to be a witch hunt and a malicious attempt to do an exposé based on unfounded accusations (NEWSBREAK, April 14, 2003). It would have been honorable had you served notice of your sinister intention before taking advantage of the hospitality of my home.
The premeditation to besmirch my reputation is evident from the picture you printed where you purposely shot me in my most somber mood, showing my worst profile. In this respect, your evil intentions succeeded. If you had served fair notice, or had I previous knowledge of your malicious intent, you would have never caught me off-guard.
Loren and I received you believing you meant well, but we were mistaken. You obviously had prepared materials and proceeded with your mock interview twisting and distorting facts to suit your wicked plan.
Your alleged “forestry experts from UP Los Baños” who spoke on condition of anonymity criticized Luntiang Pilipinas as “a waste of time,” among others. We are doing our share in saving the environment and you find fault with our efforts. How many trees have you planted in your lifetime?
You denounce Luntiang Pilipinas for planting trees too close to each other. Haven’t you heard of the process called thinning? You plant an abundance of trees hoping, but not expecting, that they will all survive. If they do then you proceed to “thin the growth.” If only 30 to 40 percent survive, as expected, then you would have just the ideal number. It’s harder to plant and grow trees than to cut them, and time is of the essence.
You mock Luntiang Pilipinas because I said only 30 to 40 percent of what we plant survive. But you failed to print what I underscored that we persist in planting 100 percent every year such that at the end of the third year, we would have achieved “120 percent survival.” I tried to impress you with what I consider heroic acts yet you twisted facts to denigrate the project.
You insult me when you pointed out that I “claim to be an environmentalist.” I had been planting trees since my childhood. It is my avocation. Tree-planting was the cornerstone of my administration when I was governor for which, among others, I received the Narra Award from the DENR and TOYM from the Philippine Jaycees, and served as chairman of both the Program for Forest Ecosystem Management (PROFEM) and the Boy Scouts of the Philippines’ National Conservation Committee, among others. I never claimed to be an environmentalist. It is a distinction conferred upon me by institutions that appreciated my work.
You vitiate the import of Luntiang Pilipinas by declaring that “it was conceived to catapult Legarda to Malacañang.” Would you rather that Loren and I did nothing for the environment?
You referred to me as “Loren’s Baggage.” The awarding of the contract for the construction of the Batangas international seaport was made by the PPA board before I assumed office. The project, however, was stymied and about to be scuttled due to technical and legal problems which I solved when I came in. President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo expressed her gratitude to me for saving her flagship project by ordering that the groundbreaking in Batangas be held on my birthday (Jan. 16, 2002). The people of Batangas hailed me a hero.
Likewise, the problem of the Philippine Retirement Authority (former name of the Philippine Leisure and Retirement Authority) and PRAMA (PRA Members Associations) was well in progress prior to my assumption as chairman. I have nothing whatsoever to do with the scandal. It is still under investigation. I am proud to proclaim that in barely one year I’ve revitalized the institution from its 16-year hibernation and it is now contributing millions of pesos to government coffers.
Your reporting was full of inaccuracies. You referred to the other island as “Lorelei II” which should have been Levely II, and said that “Justo Padre (incidentally a crackpot, but that’s another story) purchased the emancipation patent over the island from former tenants of Hacienda Looc, Nasugbu.” Lorelei Island was never covered by an emancipation patent.
You even attempted, by innuendo, to sow discord among my family and cast aspersions on my person, my first family, my conversion to Islam (which I did even before I met Loren), and our residing in the same condominium building. You don’t deserve an explanation for this one, but I assure you your baleful motives won’t work. There is perfect harmony in my family and no force on earth can put it asunder.
All my life I’ve never been bothered by criticisms. I’ve never done any harm to anyone, or done anything to be ashamed of, nor owe anyone a debt I’ve not settled. It is only now that I regret obnoxious persons are trying their damnedest to strike at Loren by attempting to destroy me. I’ve never worried for my sake. I have concern only for Loren.
Finally, and most importantly, you made a big issue out of “Tony’s Fortune” when all you did was recite the history of Fortune Island which is of public record anyway. You established the legality of the island’s private ownership when you cited “the law on reservation” for government proclamations are subject to prior rights of private individuals. On this principle, the court records will support the validity of Bgy. Captain Derain’s (my predecessor-in-interest) claim.
If I hadn’t protected the island from vandals and dynamite fishermen, there would hardly be a Fortune Island to speak of now. In legal parlance, I am “a purchaser in good faith and for value” and my possession of Fortune Island has been “continuous and uninterrupted in the concept of owner, adverse, public and peaceful.” I have constructed a resort as a “builder in good faith.”
If anyone covets the island, let him speak and reimburse all my expenses and he could keep Fortune Island.