Old wounds reopen in Taguig politics
Longtime political foes in Taguig City are resuming their word war weeks ahead of the campaign season for the May local elections, this time with opposition figures in the council accusing the administration of Mayor Laarni “Lani” Cayetano of withholding funds from their offices for 2013.
Vice Mayor George Elias and other officials allied with the once-ruling Tiñga political camp alleged that Elias’s office and the council had received “zero budget” for maintenance and other operating expenses (MOOE) this year.
“With our MOOE at zero, we have no money to even buy paper for our office,” Councilor Carlo Papa, appropriations committee chair, said in a joint statement with his allies that was issued earlier this week.
He said Elias and the councilors have “suffered in silence” since 2010, when “we were driven out of our session hall so that we had to hold sessions in the hallways and we were evicted from our offices and lost many of our staff members due to nonpayment of salaries. The vice mayor lost even his driver and security detail.”
Councilor Myla Valencia also said the mayor’s office had also stopped paying the councilors’ phone bills, stopped the release of their gasoline budget and recalled their service vehicles.
The Cayetano camp shot back on Thursday through City Hall spokesperson Darwin Icay, who denounced the councilors for engaging in “pure political smearing.”
“They are desperate because Mayor Lani and her team lead in all surveys by a mile, while they are weighed down by all sorts of issues including the recent arrest of their relatives, Joanna Tiñga and Henry Tiñga, both prominent members of the Tiñga Drug Syndicate,” Icay added.
Also, city treasurer and legal officer Mar Miranda maintained that politics had nothing to do with the cuts.
In a statement responding to the councilors’ complaints, he said the release of the MOOE was simply “centralized to key departments”—personnel, city engineer, social welfare and general services—as part of a “thorough house cleaning” concerning the city government’s finances.
“This move was done to address the unbridled and wanton spending of the past administration,” Miranda said, referring to term of former mayor and retired Supreme Court Justice Dante Tiñga.
The total city budget for 2013 was pegged at P5.35 billion. The councilors cried foul as they noted that the mayor’s office was given about P111 million for its MOOE and about P266 million for personal services, while the local legislature was not given an MOOE budget at all.
But Miranda explained that the city council, in effect, approved the “centralization” when it passed the budget though Ordinance No. 46-2012.
He also argued that the alleged “eviction” of Tiñga allies from their offices was the subject of old complaint already dismissed by the Ombudsman.
On the cuts in the councilors’ telephone budget and service vehicles, he said: “They have abused the use of their government-issued cell phones and vehicles by using them for personal use.”
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