BY CHRYSEE G. SAMILLANO AND GILBERT P. BAYORAN
Three barangay captains from Bacolod City and four from Negros Island are among the 89 officials that the Office of the Ombudsman has ordered placed on six-month preventive suspension over complaints in the implementation of the first tranche of the Social Amelioration Program (SAP) subsidy.
They are barangay captains Noli Villarosa of Tangub, Evelyn Ta-asan of Brgy. 11, and Kim Piramo of Brgy. 19, all of Bacolod; Tezardo Tejada of Barangay To-oy, Himamaylan City, Romeo Sultan – Barangay Salamanca, Toboso, and Ruel Sabequil – Cabungahan of Calatrava, in Negros Occidental, and Mercedita Uy of Barangay Cancawas, San Jose in Negros Oriental.
In an order dated September 2, 2020, the Office of the Ombudsman said “the evidence on record shows that the guilt of these punong barangays is strong and the charges against them involve Serious Dishonesty, Grave Misconduct, Abuse of Authority and Conduct Prejudicial to the Best Interest of the Service which may warrant removal from the service”.
The Ombudsman maintained that the continued stay of these punong barangays in office may prejudice the cases filed against them, “so placing them under preventive suspension for a period of six months pursuant to Republic Act 6770 is proper under the premises”, a statement from the Department of Interior and Local Government said Saturday.
Meredith Joy Madayag, DILG-Bacolod head, said they only learned about the suspension through the press release of the DILG central office, and have not received yet an official order to implement the suspension.
Madayag said this will be transmitted from the Ombudsman to the DILG central office and channeled to the DILG regional office and then to the city or municipality concerned. Once they receive the order, they will implement it and make a compliance report.
It is the DILG, or the mayor, who will serve the order as immediate supervisor of the barangay captains, she said.
Madayag said that if the barangay captain is suspended, the temporary vacancy would be filled up by the first kagawad.
Villarosa said he believes that he will be given a chance to answer once he receives the order. He does not know what charges were filed against him, he added.
He said he will just continue with his function as barangay captain of Tangub. But if ever he will be suspended, this will give him a chance to take a rest from attending to patients in his barangay who are affected by Covid-19, he said.
Villarosa said he did not benefit from the SAP since this is given directly by the cashier to the beneficiaries. The case may only involve a donation box they placed during the payout, he added.
Piramo also said he did not benefit from the SAP, and that the case could be politically motivated since he took over from an administration that had served for almost 27 years.
Out of the 250 beneficiaries, only five persons filed a complaint against him. He said he believes that due process will be observed, Piramo added.
Taasan of Brgy. 11 could not be reached for comment, as of press time.
DILG Secretary Eduardo Año, in a statement Saturday, ordered the respective municipal or city mayors of the accused barangay captains to immediately implement the order of the Ombudsman upon receipt, while the DILG regional and field officers were directed to ensure the orderly implementation of the mass suspension.
He thanked Ombudsman Samuel Martires for immediately acting on the complaints filed by the DILG against the erring barangay captains, since this will serve as a stern warning to all local government units that any wrong-doing on their part will not be tolerated by the DILG.
DILG spokesperson Jonathan Malaya said the suspension of the 89 barangay captains, the first such mass suspension in the history of the country, is just the latest in a series of moves undertaken by the DILG to weed out corrupt officials in the implementation of the SAP subsidy for those affected by the lockdowns and quarantines brought about by the coronavirus disease pandemic.
Meanwhile, a municipal social welfare and development officer and a barangay captain were arrested by the police Thursday and Friday, respectively, in Isabela, Negros Occidental, also for SAP complaints.
The arrest warrant for Falsification by Public Officer, Employee or Notary, or Ecclesiastical Minister, issued by La Carlota Regional Trial Court Judge Cyclamen Jison Fernandez, against Municipal Social Welfare and Development Officer Mae Fajardo was served on her by the police in Brgy. 4, Isabela, the Negros Occidental Police Provincial Office reported.
Fernandez has recommended P72,000 as bail for the provisional liberty of Fajardo, who is now under the custody of the Isabela Police Station.
The next day, the police served an arrest warrant to barangay captain Maria Luz Ferrer of Brgy. 8, also in Isabela, for a similar violation, issued by Judge Fernandez, dated Aug. 13, the NOCPPO added.
The court recommended P162,000 in bail for the two charges filed against Ferrer, who is also in the custody of the Isabela police.
P/Capt. Joseph Partidas, Isabela acting police chief, said the bails of Fajardo and Ferrer are under process, as of yesterday.*