Peña targets Makati ‘ghosts,’ suspends sister city pacts
Back as acting mayor of Makati City, Romulo “Kid” Peña Jr. went to work by checking City Hall for “ghost” or bogus employees and allowing volunteers to serve as janitors in the meantime as he reviews service contracts.
He also suspended Makati’s “sister city” agreements with other local government units (LGUs), thus barring the Makati Friendship Suites—a controversial hotel where the city’s official guests can stay—from accepting guests from partner LGUs.
Peña on Friday said among his first acts of housekeeping was to hold off the renewal of the contracts for casual city government employees pending a physical inventory.
The official held a press conference at the 21st-floor office vacated Wednesday by Mayor Jejomar Erwin “Junjn” Binay Jr., who complied with the suspension order issued by the Office of the Ombudsman as it investigated the allegedly overpriced Makati City Science High School building.
In March, the Ombudsman also issued a six-month suspension order against the mayor in connection with City Hall Building II, which was also under scrutiny for alleged overpricing. Binay then secured a favorable Court of Appeals ruling to justify his continued stay, just hours after Vice Mayor Peña was sworn in as acting mayor. Peña then put up a makeshift office at the old city hall.
On Friday, Peña told reporters that the contracts of around 4,000 employees listed as casuals lapsed on Tuesday.
“At present, it appears [that the contracts] were not signed and all of them are for renewal. I apologize because this happened just when I’m assuming office temporarily,” he said. “One question they always ask me is whether there are ghost employees here. This is one [opportunity] for us to find out.”
The casual employees would also have to undergo a performance evaluation prior to the renewal of their contracts, he added.
‘To rectify things’
Under the law, Peña said, he would have the power to hire personnel after 30 days from his assumption of office. “I understand the feeling and definitely all of us want life to continue. But we must understand that this has to be done. We are trying to rectify things, so let’s do it properly.”
Peña said he was also holding off the renewal of service contracts for janitorial and security services at City Hall. For now, his “volunteers” would be in charge of the complex’s maintenance.
He would also be suspending the implementation of Makati’s “sister city” agreements. “I apologize to our LGU friends, but this has to be done so we can give priority to our problems and whatever needs to be fixed in Makati. I have issued an order for the Friendship Suites not to accept visitors from other LGUs temporarily.”
But in a statement on Friday, the Binay camp reminded Peña that “you are not the new mayor.”
Binay spokesperson Joey Salgado maintained that Peña had “no authority” to cancel programs and contracts. “The Court of Appeals has yet to issue a ruling on Mayor Binay’s petition for a [temporary restraining order]. Mayor Binay stepped down temporarily as a show of respect to the court.”
Peña is also expected to follow the ruling of the court and being a member of the ruling Liberal Party “doesn’t exempt him from the rule of law,” he said.
Salgado pointed out that the Makati City government had never received any adverse findings from the Commission on Audit (COA) regarding its personnel. COA actually conducts its own regular and random personnel audit, he added.
“But the agenda of the Liberal Party and their allies is to make up stories against the Binays. We won’t be surprised if they come out with a fake or suspicious document (to support these stories),” he said.
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