BY GILBERT P. BAYORAN / CHRYSEE G. SAMILLANO
Two residents of Negros Occidental have filed criminal and administrative complaints against seven officials of the provincial government before the Deputy Ombudsman for Visayas for hiring 23 job order casual employees who are registered voters of Bacolod City.
Complaints for technical malversation of public funds and violation of the anti-graft and Corrupt Practices Act, were filed by Jonathan Buyco of Talisay City and Lilibeth Carballo of Escalante City, Neg. Occ., against Provincial Administrator Rayfrando Diaz lll, Provincial Budget Officer Gemma Flores, Provincial Accountant Annabelle Magalona, acting Provincial Human Resource Officer Felomina Gozon, Provincial Treasurer Amy Grace Bolivar, and Merly Frio and Jade Miraflores, both of the HRO, in a joint complaint-affidavit subscribed before lawyers of Vaflor, Alimon & Associates Law Firm dated January 21.
Diaz, however, said the complaint is political harassment and people should not believe everything they hear.
He pointed out that the lawyers who prepared the affidavit- complaint are the same ones in a case seeking to disqualify Alfredo (Albee) Benitez as mayoralty candidate of Bacolod in the May elections.
The complainants claimed that they attempted to seek employment with the provincial government for several instances but were told to secure an endorsement from an influential politician.
But on October 2021, they learned that there were 23 residents who are registered voters of Bacolod City, that were hired and employed by the province as job order personnel (JOs). This is despite the fact that such appropriation for personal services in the annual budget is intended for employment for residents and taxpayers of the province of Neg. Occ.
Complainants Buyco and Carballo said the hiring of the 23 Bacolod residents as JOs is intended to assist and aid the political promotion or campaign of then Provincial Consultant Alfredo Abelardo “Albee” Benitez, who is a mayoralty candidate for Bacolod City, since they are have the knowledge and ability in organize people especially in the field of politics.
Diaz said there are no government guidelines that states that only residents of the province can seek employment with the provincial government. At the same time, he dismissed complaints filed against him and six other Capitol employees as “politically-motivated, which he stressed is a product of the imagination of the complainants, being used for “political purposes.”
He cited that a big percent of the employees of Capitol are residents of Bacolod. They are hired based on their qualifications.
Diaz said the 23 casuals were part of the emergency response team and have been utilized as contact tracers during the peak of COVID-19 last year. They have also been responsible in bringing assistance of Capitol to residents of the province severely affected by typhoon Odette.*CGS
Governor Eugenio Jose Lacson yesterday vowed to uncover the mastermind behind the filing of charges against seven department head and employees of the provincial government, so they can establish if it is politically-motivated.
At the same time, Lacson assured Capitol employees who are respondents to the accusations, that the province is “behind them, and protect them.”
Complainants Jonathan Buyco and Lilibeth Carballo filed charges against Provincial Administrator Rayfrando Diaz, Provincial Budget Officer Gemma Flores; Provincial Accountant Annabelle Magalona; Provincial Human Resource Officer Felomina Gozon; Provincial Treasurer Atty. Amy Grace Bolivar; and Merly Frio and Jade Miraflores, both assigned under the Human Resource Department, before the Ombudsman Visayas for alleged technical malversation of funds, grave abuse of authority, grave misconduct and dishonesty.
The complaints stemmed from hiring of 23 registered voters of Bacolod City who were employed by the provincial government as job order employees.
Both further alleged, in their joint complaint affidavit, that those appointees from Bacolod City are all election campaign operators of then Provincial Consultant Alfredo Abelardo “Albee” Benitez, who is a mayoralty candidate for Bacolod City.
Asked if it was politically-motivated, Lacson said he cannot say it now. But if we can point to this as politically-motivated and we can identify the person behind it, we will do so. But right now, we are not blaming anybody, he added.*