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Bacolod City, Philippines Thursday, May 5, 2016
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Scores use of
Ecola to get votes

Bacolod Mayor Monico Puentevella scored Bacolod Rep. Evelio Leonardia on his alleged efforts to use the release of the Emergency Cost of Living Allowance as a means of getting their votes.

Puentevella said the teachers do not owe the release of their allowances to Leonardia.

The mayor was reacting to the letter of the solon allegedly appealing to the teachers' votes by reminding them that he was responsible for the release of the ECOLA.

Puentevella said the release of the ECOLA is in compliance with the Supreme Court order. Whoever is the mayor, is duty-bound to release the allowance, he said.

He also reminded Leonardia that getting the teachers to engage in any partisan politics by allegedly asking them to campaign for him violates Section 2(4), Article IX-B of the 1987 Constitution provides that “no officer or employee in the civil service should engage, directly or indirectly, in any electioneering or partisan political activity.”

Puentevella, in his letter to the teachers, said “It is not true that some congressman put back your ECOLA because it was you, the teachers who won it back when you protested in the streets and filed a case in court. No one can claim that they did it for you. The congressman who claims it is either an amnesiac or a total liar.”

Joselito Bayatan, Leonardia's legal counsel, said the message of the solon was about his advocacy on the needs of the teachers especially for the release of their ECOLA. He worked doubly hard for the proper allocation and budgeting during his previous incumbency to meet the ECOLA needs of the teachers.

There was no blackmail but a simple act of good human relations. For Puentevella to translate this matter into something malicious only speaks of his person as insensible and insensitive, he said.

Bayatan said Puentevella cannot pretend not to know that he blocked the payments of the terminal pay of city employees, whose co-terminus employment expired in 2013 during the incumbency of Leonardia.

It was not until Puentevella was suspended that acting Mayor Gasataya released this compensation to these employees, he said.

This is very much similar to the teachers' ECOLA that despite having won their case with the Supreme Court, still, Puentevella would not release their ECOLA. This is what we mean by being insensitive, he added.

Bayatan said Puentevella does not have to remind Leonardia about Sec. 2 (4), Article IX-B of the 1987 Constitution in regard to his alleged claim of electioneering because the solon's concern about the teachers' ECOLA shows that he has a heart for them, he said.

Rather, Puentevella should strictly study and re-study the said provision of the Philippine Constitution as to why he caused his traffic enforcers to wear their uniforms with his political slogan “Booming Bacolod” and political brand “MKK”, he said.

Now a criminal complaint for election offense has been filed against him before the Comelec that can result to his disqualification as a candidate with non-probationable imprisonment. This is what he means about Puentevella being insensible, he added.

Bayatan said Puentevella should not claim that the city's debts during the incumbency of Leonardia affected education, health, infrastructure and social programs since these had prior clearance from the Bureau of Local Governance Finance (of the Department of Finance) that confirmed the sound financial capacity of the City Government to pay its debts.

To incur debts is about the ability to pay, not simply a matter of liability. Fiscal management is one that while the mayor pays for the debts, yet he can still provide basic services like education, health, infrastructure and social programs which then Mayor Leonardia had consistently done during his term, Bayatan said.

But Puentevella does not have the ability and intelligent aptitude of fiscal management of Leonardia, that's why all that he can do is to complain while exposing his gross incompetence, he said.

Bayatan said that Puentevella's warning to the teachers of possible violation of the Civil Service Law and the Omnibus Election Code if they campaign for any political candidate or political party, only shows his admission that the teachers are not on his side.*CGS

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