Storm survivors sue mayor
A group representing people who survived Typhoon “Ruby” in 2014 has filed a graft complaint against the mayor of Catbalogan City, Samar, for allegedly shortchanging the storm survivors of housing assistance.
In a five-page complaint filed at the Office of the Ombudsman in the Visayas, the group People’s Surge Western Samar chapter accused Mayor Stephany Uy-Tan of failing to abide by the memorandum of agreement on the release of P110.91 million in funds meant for emergency shelter assistance, or ESA.
Tan told Inquirer she would not comment on the case until she sees a copy of the complaint.
ESA is a Department of Social Welfare and Development program to provide typhoon survivors with funds to either repair their homes or build
Also named respondents in the complaint were City Social Welfare and Development Officer Nida Aroza and Barangay Lagundi Secretary Lita Solis.
The three were accused of violating the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act and the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees. They also face an administrative case for grave misconduct.
According to the complaint, the city government reclassified homes that had been destroyed as “partially damaged” a week before the ESA funds were distributed on Oct. 13, 2016.
Solis allegedly collected the Disaster Assistance Family Access Cards, which is proof of qualification for the ESA funds, of the survivors and
told them these would be photocopied and returned to them after.
The reclassification of the destroyed houses as partially damaged, however, allowed the city officials to give the survivors only P8,000 in ESA funds instead of P16,000 meant for beneficiaries who lost their homes.
Employees allegedly with connections to Aroza distributed the cash assistance at the Catbalogan City Hall, with the recipients being made to sign payrolls and vouchers.
The downgrade of the cash assistance “could not have been possible without the blessings and instructions of respondent Mayor Uy-Tan,” claimed the complainants led by People’s Surge chapter president Ma. Rechiel Laylay.
The complainants also said the local government failed to release the entire amount for ESA funds within the three-month period required by law. They said P2.18 million remained undistributed until December 2016.
People’s Surge said it sought copies of the vouchers in a letter dated Feb. 28 this year to the city government. But a March 6 letter signed by Aroza in reply to the group, which was noted by the mayor, claimed that the requested documents had already been forwarded to the Commission on Audit.
Saying that access to the vouchers could have helped verify the cash releases, the complaint faulted the city officials for failing to maintain its records in violation of the rules on ESA.
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