Sunday, November 25, 2007

Neglect, abuse, graft are most common charges filed against barangay officials

Neglect, abuse, graft are most common charges filed against barangay officials

By Rommel Lontayao, Manila TimesReporter

Critical appraisal heaped on barangay chairmen and council-members’ conduct and performance range from negligent, lazy and incompetent to greedy, corrupt and murderous—just like those used to describe higher government officials.

Corruption, neglect of duty, and abuse of authority of officials at the barangay level are three of the most common reasons various groups are pushing for the abolition of the barangay elections and the elimination of the Sangguniang Kabataan itself.

Most of the cases filed against barangay officials are for—or related to—these offenses.

In the country’s capital city alone, many cases filed at the Manila Barangay Bureau are complaints of corruption and abuse of authority against barangay chairmen and kagawads (councilmen).

One complaint involving corruption is that filed by a former barangay councilman and a former barangay secretary against their chairman. This man had allegedly sold his own private vehicle to the barangay, but never changed the ownership of the vehicle afterward. He received the purchase payment but retained ownership of the vehicle.

Paid absentee kagawads

Besides this, complainants Johnny Balbona and Jesus Jacinto, residents of Barangay 816 Zone 88 District V, in Paco, Manila, complained that their chairman, Arturo Lantin, had continuously given honoraria to former barangay councilmen even if they had already transferred to residences outside and distant from the barangay. These kagawads were therefore unable to do their duties at Barangay 816.

Balbona further claimed that one councilwoman, Imelda Lantin, who is the wife of the chairman, had received her honoraria and cash gifts despite being out of the country for nearly 11 months.

According to Balbona and Jacinto, their barangay hall is not being used for barangay council meetings and other official purposes. It is instead now being leased to vendors for P30 a month. At night, Balbona and Jacinto said, the barangay hall becomes a “pot session room” for illegal drug and solvent addicts.

Included as respondents in the complaints filed by Balbona and Jacinto, who are backed by more than a hundred residents of the barangay, were councilmen Gemma Ordona, Nene Amaneo, Boy Caponpon, Alvin Franco, Merlita Manalo and Joenery Estillero. These had allegedly connived with the Lantins.

Denied barangay certificate

Another complaint was made by Loreta Godani. She was allegedly not given the barangay certificate she needed, when she approached Barangay Chairman Lantin.

You cannot apply for or be issued some government documents without a barangay certification. Barangay chairmen are obliged to issue these certifications when asked to do so by legitimate residents.

Meanwhile, in Barangay 142 Zone 12, a complaint charges that Belen Lariosa, barangay chairman; Rosanna Rubio, secretary; and Daniel Garde, councilman, committed grave abuse of authority and dereliction of duty. This case was filed by Carmelita Gardon, a resident of Barangay 143 Zone 12, Balut, Tondo, Manila.

Gardon had reported to the barangay authorities that certain persons destroyed her family’s water meter and steel gate. She then filed cases against these vandals. But her complaints were not acted on. She now charges Barangay Chairwoman Lariosa, Secretary Rubio and Councilman Garde of dereliction of duty in ignoring her requests for action on the cases she had filed against the vandals. She also accuses the three officials of using intimidation to stop her family from pursuing the cases she had filed. This clearly, if true, was grave accuse of authority.

Gardon also added in her complaint that the chairwoman even told one of her relatives that “she will not entertain nor issue any permit, clearances, or certification when it involves any member of the Gardon family.”

“It is evident that the respondents are using their influence and position in harassing and influencing the witnesses as well as preventing access to documents relevant for filing the appropriate criminal and civil charges against [those persons involved in the destruction of our water meter and steel gate],” Gardon added in her written complaint.

Humorous, scary and sad

The Manila Barangay Bureau-Complaint and Investigation Section also has the humorously interesting case of a barangay chairman reported to be squatting in the middle of a street, of a scary and grim case of another chairman charged with committing acts of lasciviousness and making grave threats, and of the sad case of still another chairman who had allegedly cheated the Meralco or the city government by illegally tapping an electricity supply line.

Investigator Teddy Remandaban of the Manila Barangay Bureau-Complaint and Investigation Section estimated that their office receives more than a hundred complaints annually. At present, he said, they are attending to some 30 pending cases.

Remandaban confirmed that most cases filed are those involving corruption, dereliction of duty and abuse of authority.

The barangay bureau, by itself, does not have the authority to suspend or dismiss any elected barangay official from his position. It can only endorse complaint charges against the barangay officials to the city council, which is vested with disciplinary and penal powers.

Perhaps except for those whose residents are severely terrorized by the barangay officials or where the barangay has very few residents (like the country’s smallest barangay, Quezon City’s Barangay Manga, with a population of only 494), there must be tens of thousands of similar complaints of abuse, corruption and dereliction and abandonment of duty throughout the country.

The many barangays throughout Metro Manila—like many in Pasay City where garbage is left uncollected and whose culverts are clogged—must be manned by derelict officials.

Those who allow their streets to be used as parking areas day and night by commercial trucks—despite no parking signs—must correctly be suspected of being both derelict and corrupt.

Meanwhile, nationwide very few officials accused of various crimes and offenses related to the October 29 barangay and SK elections have been punished by their town and city councils.

Most likely these criminal barangay officials did the wrongdoings they did on barangay election day with the approval and support (or at least the acquiescence) of the officials of their superior town or city and province.

No comments: