‘Aid’ for N. Vizcaya workers sparks more controversy
BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya–When the provincial government here finally started distributing the controversial “cash assistance” to its more than 1,000 employees on Friday, officials thought it would be the end of the story. They thought wrong.
Controversy continued to hound the grant of the global economic relief assistance (Gera) of as much as P30,000 to provincial officials and rank-and-file employees following complaints against guidelines set by the office of Gov. Luisa Cuaresma for the release of the employees’ benefit.
Board Member Patricio Dumlao on Thursday slammed the guidelines issued by the province’s local finance committee, which compelled qualified recipients to sign an “agreement of undertaking” before the Gera can be given to them.
“It is a superfluous, arbitrary and whimsical exercise of power by (the executive department). It has no basis in law; yet, it has deprived lowly employees who were very much in need of the benefit,” said Dumlao, who was among those not included in the Gera payroll.
In the agreement, the signatory employees bound themselves to refund to the province the amount they received should the fund disbursement of P31 million for the Gera be found to be irregular by appropriate agencies such as the Commission on Audit.
Employees who refused or failed to sign the undertaking, even if they are entitled, shall not receive the Gera, the guidelines said.
“What the LFC did was clearly illegal because nowhere in the appropriation ordinance can you find such a condition (of signing the undertaking) or an authorization for the LFC to promulgate such guidelines,” Dumlao said.
The Gera fund was through an ordinance by the provincial board on Dec. 17, supposedly to aid provincial workers against the effects of the global economic meltdown.
However, it was not released to the employees in time for the Christmas holidays after Cuaresma refused to approve the measure.
She blamed five members of the minority in the Sangguniang Panlalawigan, led by Dumlao, for supposedly boycotting the approval, suspecting that they were plotting another suit against her should she sign the ordinance into law. The minority board members denied the allegations.
The ordinance, however, automatically lapsed into law on Jan. 2 after Cuaresma opted not to act on it after 15 days. The treasury office started paying the employees’ Gera Jan 9.
Dumlao said he was baffled why his name was not even included in the payroll, when the list of officials and employees who were to receive the grant that the LFC submitted to the board had his name on it.
“This is really ridiculous because they did not include my name and that of board member (Reina Nita Liza) Tidang in the payroll when I was even a co-sponsor of the appropriation ordinance. And they don’t even tell us why,” he said.
He, however, declined to comment when asked if their non-inclusion in the payroll was a form of “political harassment”.
The name of another employee, Robert Guibani, was originally included in the payroll but was later crossed out after he failed to sign the undertaking because he was on leave, and travelled to Manila to attend prayer masses for the 40th day of his father’s death.
“I failed to receive my P30,000 only because I was absent when the undertaking was passed around for signing. But there are employees who were on study leave abroad for six months or were meted suspension of one year or six months who got their Gera. This is so unjust,” he said in an interview.
This writer tried but failed to reach for comment Perfecto Martinez Jr., provincial treasurer and LFC chair, in his office. He was reportedly on official travel to Metro Manila.
Martinez’ deputy, provincial budget officer Alejandra Dacumos also declined to comment, saying she was not authorized by the LFC chair to speak to the media.