Shame campaign hits N. Vizcaya anti-budget officials
BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya–Provincial officials have found themselves in the middle of a firestorm here, reaping blame for filing a suit that has caused a virtual shutdown of government operations here for the past four days.
Residents from various sectors heaped the blame on Rep. Carlos Padilla and his nine political allies in the Sangguniang Panlalawigan, who petitioned the regional trial court here to void the province’s 2012 budget ordinance.
Text messages were being circulated enumerating the names of board members who filed the suit and asked for a temporary restraining order, which froze the continued use of the questioned P786-million budget for 20 days starting July 6.
“We fervently plead to Congressman Padilla to spare the province from his premature tactics of manipulating its affairs to further his political interests,” another text message, stated in the dialect, read in part.
In social media sites like Facebook, netizens lambasted Nueva Vizcaya officials, whose “excessive politicking”, they said, was causing great harm even on innocent people.
At the capitol, placards were displayed condemning Padilla’s alleged interference in the province’s affairs, accusing him as the alleged brains behind the board members’ suit.
However, in his paid radio program “NV Patrol” aired over dwRV here on Thursday, Padilla turned the blame on Gov. Luisa Cuaresma and Vice Gov. Jose Gambito for allegedly having allowed the controversy to drag.
“Why am I now being blamed? I am not the governor of the province. They should have done something to solve the problem,” he said, adding that the provincial officials’ interpretation of the coverage of the TRO was “OA (exaggerated)”.
Since Monday, operations of the provincial government came to a virtual halt in what provincial officials said was a “faithful compliance” to the TRO issued by Judge Rogelio Corpuz.
The nine board members allied with Padilla alleged in their petition that the 2012 budget ordinance was void because its passage was not approved by the majority members.
However, the respondents, which include Cuaresma, Gambito, provincial budget officer Alejandra Dacumos, and acting provincial treasurer Rhoda Moreno, insisted on its validity, as it has already passed a review by the Department of Budget and Management.
The dispositive portion of the TRO read: “Wherefore, for all the foregoing, the prayer for a TRO for 20 days is hereby granted without any bond, during which period the respondents are hereby directed to cease and desist from implementing the provisions of Provincial Appropriations Act. No. 2012-01”.
Under the law, defiance of a court order makes violators liable for the crime of indirect contempt, which carries a penalty of imprisonment of not more than one month or a fine of up to P5,000 or both.
Since Monday, power was cut off at the entire capitol grounds, rendering computers and other office devices idle; lights and air-conditioning inside offices were off.
The power outage has also affected activities at the Hall of Justice, which derives its power supply from that of the provincial government. The building houses four RTCs, offices of the clerk of courts, and prosecutors’ offices and the Public Attorney’s Office.
Provincial offices were told not to fill up vehicles with fuel that would be charged against the 2012 budget. Ongoing infrastructure projects were also halted.
At province-run hospitals like the Nueva Vizcaya Provincial Hospital in Bambang town, the out-patient department has been closed down.
“Because of the TRO, we are also constrained to advise our finance officers not to release salaries of officials and employees because we consider that to be covered by the TRO,” said lawyer Leslie Costales, acting provincial legal officer.
Employees, however, continued reporting for work “as volunteers”, in order not to disrupt services that they may still render despite the absence of electricity, according to Cristina Gurat, president of the Nueva Vizcaya rank-and-file employees’ association.
During Wednesday’s hearing of the case, lawyer Epifanio Delbert Galima III, counsel for the petitioners, asked the court to clarify the extent of the TRO, as he expressed lament that much of the blame for all the disorder that ensued were being heaped on the nine petitioning board members.
“It was never the intention of the petitioners to cause a disruption of government operations,” he told the court.
Judge Corpuz asked Galima: “Were the petitioners not aware of the consequences when they asked for the TRO?”