Relatives rally for ‘starving’ employees of PantabanganBy Anselmo Roque, Armand Galang |Inquirer Central Luzon
CABANATUAN CITY—About 500 people in Pantabangan town, many of them relatives and supporters of employees of the town government, staged a protest rally on Monday to press for payment of the salaries and other benefits of the government workers.
Antonio Capia, president of the Pantabangan Municipal Government Employees Association, said some 200 employees and several service contract personnel of the local government had not received their salaries for two months now.
Aside from the nonpayment of salaries, Capia said their clothing allowance, 13th month pay, Christmas bonus and productivity incentive have not been released.
He also decried the nonremittance of their premiums to the Government Service Insurance System, Philippine Health Insurance Corp. and Home Development Mutual Fund (Pag-Ibig Fund).
“We don’t understand why we are not having money for the payment of these just dues for the employees,” said Capia, the assistant municipal agriculture officer.
“We have the highest internal revenue allotment and income among the towns and cities in Nueva Ecija and yet we don’t have enough money for these essentials,” he said.
But Mayor Romeo Borja Sr. described the protest action as “politically motivated.”
He challenged the employees and their supporters to charge him in court. “They keep on talking because they hope to gain sympathy rather than present evidence so we can answer these,” he said.
Borja noted that two former Pantabangan mayors, Ruben Huerta and Lucio Uera, joined the protest rally. Uera, he said, is running for mayor while Huerta is running for vice mayor.
Borja assured employees that they will receive all benefits, including their 13th month pay this month.
Gerardo Sator, officer-in-charge of the Pantabangan La Solidaridad Movement, said Borja, during the flag-raising ceremony on Monday, told the employees and their supporters that he was ready to dialogue.
But Sator said Borja went straight to his office and allowed the public address system to play loud music to drown out the protesters’ statements.
“It’s a battle of loud speakers we have here. Our voices were drowned out by their loud music,” Sator said.
The government workers and their supporters also assailed local officials for the supposed privatization of the Pantabangan Municipal Electric Services (Pames), the power distributor in the town.
“We were not consulted about it. We do not know the terms and conditions in the privatization of our town’s electric service,” Sator said.
In July, residents staged protest rallies after First Gen Hydro Power Corp. (FGHPC), which owns and operates the Pantabangan-Masiway hydroelectric complex, cut off supply to the local government-run Pames in July over the town’s P80 million in unpaid bills.
The protesters then accused local officials of mismanaging funds of the town government.
Power was restored 10 days later after FGHPC and the local government agreed on terms for the payment of the arrears, which will come from the town government’s share in real property, national wealth and local business taxes.