Pols’ bickering spoils festive Christmas for N. Vizcaya workers
BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya–More than 1,000 officials and employees of the provincial government here greeted Christmas Day with gloom following the botched release of the “cash assistance” they had been expecting to receive since last week.
Government workers entered the long holiday break on Tuesday getting receiving their global economic relief assistance (Gera) of as much as P30,000, after Gov. Luisa Cuaresma did not approve in time the ordinance releasing a total of P31 million for such benefit.
In a speech before employees Monday, Cuaresma said she refused to approve the ordinance, and blamed members of the opposition in the provincial board for supposedly boycotting the approval of the ordinance last week.
She said the minority board members’ move was an attempt to evade responsibility over the expected negative publicity that would be generated by the Gera grant, and expressed fear that her political opponents may use the controversy in filing charges against her.
But a number of employees interviewed by this writer were baffled why Cuaresma kept on blaming the opposition, when the ordinance was already approved by the SP and that all she had to do was sign it.
“Kasla han ngarud nga nasayaat ta ti pay met kanayon nga awagna ti bagina ket ‘naparabur nga ina’ (It’s quite ironic for the governor to have done that, especially that she has been branding herself as ‘a generous mother’),” said a casual utility worker, who asked not to be named for fear of losing his job.
In their Dec. 1 regular session, the Sangguniang Panlalawigan approved an ordinance authorizing the release of P31 million for the Gera, despite the absence of the board’s five-member minority bloc.
The board said Gera was meant as “assistance” to the province’s officials and employees for the “economic difficulties which may arise as a result of the global financial crisis”.
Documents showed that the amount was supposed to give P30,000 to each of the 680 officials and regular employees and 252 casuals, and P10,000 each to contractual workers.
Board Member Efren Quiben, chair of the SP’s finance committee, said recipients of P10,000 will also include Regional Trial Court judges, prosecutors, and officials of the National Bureau of Investigation, Register of Deeds, Commission on Audit, and others who may be picked by the governor.
Other employees said they had expected the immediate release of the aid following the release, supposedly in time for Christmas and New Year feasts and the expected spending due to the long vacation in between.
Because of the non-release of the Gera, a woman employee, said she and her family had to content themselves with some pancit (noodles) and bread for Wednesday midnight’s noche buena. She added that she and many of her co-workers had already loaned their “bonus” to pay off long-standing debts.
“It’s not quite right to say ‘merry Christmas’ today because it’s not merry. We hope the governor’s Christmas is,” she said on Thursday.
This writer tried to reach Cuaresma but she would not take the repeated calls made through her mobile phone, nor respond to text messages.
Vice Gov. Jose Gambito, however, defended Cuaresma saying it was premature to conclude that the governor would not sign the Gera ordinance.
“She has a period within which to act (and) the period has not elapsed yet,” he said.
Explaining why Cuaresma has not signed the ordinance, Gambito said: “that is because some members (of the board) were wearing two masks, one good face before the employees and one good face before the (media),” he said.
Board Member Patricio Dumlao Jr., minority leader, slammed Cuaresma and other administration officials who were passing the blame to the members of the opposition.
“They should be man enough to take responsibility for their actions and not blame others of their failure, because that is the truth,” he said.
Dumlao denied speculations that the minority staged a walkout before the approval of the ordinance.
“The order of business would show that the approval of the P30,000 was not part of (the agenda), so there is no reason to accuse the minority of a walkout,” he said, adding that each of the opposition board members were absent for personal reasons.