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Bacolod City, Philippines Tuesday, July 5, 2016
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Failed turnover


As early as April 2016, the Department of the Interior and Local Government had directed all local officials to form their transition teams to officially turn over their respective local administrations to their successor. This is no hitch when an elected official succeeds himself or its successor is an ally.

Even so, the DILG wanted to have the turning over of the government from one set of officials to another done smoothly because a local official has no personal claim or inherent right to an elective position. He or she is there only as mandated by the electorate or the law. The local official's main function is not merely to serve, but insure that government assets are protected.

I had the misfortune of heading the transition team in Bacolod City. Well aware of the hostility between the incoming Mayor Evelio Leonardia and the outgoing Mayor Monico Puentevella, I had to be careful that what the DILG listed to be turned over are the right ones and the contents are true and integral.

At the onset I made it clear that our transition team will receive and take into custody whatever was turned over, but we will not accept any item until they are verified as to their correctness and integrity. Even my team was puzzled by the two terms “receive” and “accept”. Indeed people ordinarily understand them as one and the same.

In truth they are not. The root word of “receive” is the Latin “recipere” which means to take back but the Anglo-French widened its meaning. On the other hand, the root word of “accept” is the Latin “acceptare” which means also to receive but “willingly” or “favorably”.

I made this distinction clear because of numerous reports of anomalies in the Puentevella government and, in fact, we have photographs taken after the election of bundles of documents from the Government Center loaded in new AUVs.

This raised the possibility that documents and properties would be incomplete or their contents tampered to remove incriminatory contents, as this could have compromised their integrity.

My apprehensions proved right. Puentevella's transition team submitted a few documents that contained matters in the ordinary course of affairs, like accomplishment reports.

When I asked for other documents we were told that we can get them from the computers or from the bulletin boards. This is as irregular as it is arrogant. Moreover, on the day of the turnover (June 29) the Mayor's office had already been stripped of computers. The following day we found a disconnected telephone and several cushion sofas missing. There was clearly only a semblance of compliance with the DILG directive.

Because several department heads holding sensitive positions were absent, we gave them until noon of June 30 to comply.Nobody came or submitted anything the next day, prompting me, in the presence of the DILG to declare a failure of the turnover. The DILG representative said she will submit a report on this failure and so will City Administrator John Orola.

Highly sensitive documents were missing. The city treasurer, after arriving late, submitted the financial position of the city as of June 28. When asked whether his report of P892 million is complete, he admitted it was not. I insisted that he makes an updated report. He failed to submit. Later we found the reason – there was massive withdrawal in the millions on the 29 th and the 30 th . The media are already discussing them on air.

The treasurer's report lost its integrity. On June 29, the cash position was P67,089,587.39 but the following day, the report said this was down to P38,013,321. A later check showed this was actually only P29,076.266.07.

There was an attempt to withdraw over P38 million to pay for a questionable speech laboratory. The check was issued to the supplier on June 29 but stopped on time the next day by the new administration that gave no advice to the bank to honor them.

Most of the documents DILG enumerated to be turned over, like list of movable and immovable properties, contracts, list of personnel, vouchers, list of Commission on Audit disallowances,and several other sensitive documents that could have hidden illegal transactions were not submitted. We can understand why: they could contain incriminating evidence of massive corruption.

If the city officials fulfill their election promise to prosecute the corrupt in the past administration, they have plenty of things to do. Our task is done.*



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