MANILA, Philippines – What’s wrong with a barangay (village) chairman having his or her own service car bought by the city government?
The city government of Makati has replaced the nine-year-old service vehicles of all the heads if its 33 villages, including the two barangays within the contested Fort Bonifacio, city officials said.
But officials had to do some explaining after a screen-grab of pictures showing rows of brand-new Hyundai Accent cars apparently posted by Barangay Poblacion Captain Benhur Laurente Cruz on Facebook were shared on Twitter and subsequently retweeted.
In his post, Cruz thanked Makati Mayor Jejomar Erwin Binay for giving all barangay heads new cars. The post was spotted by Jaime Garchitorena and reposted on Twitter through his handle @JaimeGarch: “Mayor Junjun Binay gives every barangay captain in Makati a car? From the FB page of a bgy captain? Have a look.”
Some netizens asked if giving cars to barangay officials was legal. Activist Leah Navarro, a co-convenor of the Black and White movement, said through her handle @leahnavarro: “Is that what the Internal Revenue Allotment in Makati gets you? Naman.”
A journalist participating in the discussion called it “political patronage.”
Garchitorena noted that the money used to buy the cars should have been given to the “poor, hungry and sick” or for the salaries of additional roving policemen.
Sought for a reaction, Joey Salgado, head of Makati’s Information and Community Relations Department, said the Facebook post of the barangay head was taken out of context.
“These are replacements of the vehicles given to them nine years ago since the costs to maintain the old vehicles are already higher than buying new ones,” Salgado said, noting that assigning service vehicles to barangay heads was practice that has been going on for years in Makati.
Jeline Baby Olfato, chair of Barangay Pembo, said she had inherited a 2007 Toyota Revo from his predecessors and it was only last September 2 that it was replaced by a black Hyundai Accent.
Olfato found nothing wrong in having her own service vehicle since, she said, she uses it only while performing barangay functions.
She said that sometimes, the vehicle of the barangay head is used for responding to emergency situations.
Maribel Vitales, chair of Barangay Southside, one of the two villages which are part of the 729-hectare Inner Fort which the Court of Appeals returned back to Makati City, said she had also received a Hyundai car from the city government.
“We have been receiving what the other Makati barangay get even before the CA ruling,” she said.
Salgado assured the public that the service cars of the barangay heads will have red plates and bear official markings.
“They are definitely not for personal use,” he said.