Employees suffer from standoff in Pantabangan
PANTABANGAN, Nueva Ecija—Municipal employees are bearing the brunt of a mayoral standoff that started in May and resumed last week as Typhoon “Lando” raged through the province.
In a letter, 250 employees, 50 of them contractual, appealed to Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima to designate a municipal treasurer who would be tasked with releasing their back pay.
They could not get their salaries because the incumbent treasurer, Elvira Gonzales, has not reported for work since Ruben Huerta, the elected vice mayor, became acting mayor, said Rosita Yang, municipal accountant.
As a result, they have stopped their children from going to school, Yang said. “We are exhausted and in need. Many of our employees could not enroll their children for the school year. Baon na kami sa utang (We are deep in debt),” she said.
Both Mayor Lucio Uera, who was dismissed by the Office of the Ombudsman for grave misconduct and abuse of authority when he suspended and terminated 44 municipal employees in 2005, and Huerta have been holding office as chief executive in separate wings of the municipal hall for months. They have tried to fix the government’s financial mess.
Uera has petitioned the town’s authorized bank to recognize his signature. Huerta, for his part, has appealed to the Department of Finance (DOF) to appoint a caretaker treasurer so government funds deposited in a bank could again be accessed.
Since Oct. 19, Huerta has been holed out inside the mayor’s office to prevent Uera from taking over. The mayor returned to the municipal hall on Friday to reclaim his post on the strength of an Oct. 13 decision from the Court of Appeals which affirmed its earlier ruling to reverse the sanctions imposed on him by the Ombudsman.
Huerta refused to yield because the Department of the Interior and Local Government had designated him mayor.
Due to the tension, the police have augmented a security team put up around the municipal hall with members of the special weapons and tactics, and the police provincial public safety company.
“We appeal to Purisima. We employees should not be affected by politics,” Yang said. She said the employees had asked the DOF regional office to help them but were told only Purisima could solve their problem.
“We are grateful we were not badly hit by Lando but no one seems to know how to solve this man-made calamity,” Gerardo Sator, the secretary to Uera, said.
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