BAGUIO CITY — Emboldened by the need for leadership, Tineg town residents represented by two of its three councilors and some village leaders aired complaints against an absentee mayor, who they claim is hiding for allegedly stashing away the town’s coffers.
In a forum here, Tuesday, town officials said, Tineg, Abra has the biggest internal revenue allocation (IRA) but townsfolk are yet to see where the local government is spending its almost P60 million share of the people’s taxes.
The locals complain Mayor Edwin Crisologo has not visited the town hall in Poblacion Agsimao since his election in May 2007, or more than one year ago.
“Awan pulos ti nakita a pagdur-asan ti Tineg tatta ta awan makita a mayor,” (There is no evidence of development in Tineg now because there is no mayor in sight) one of the leaders said. Tineg townsfolk representing its 10 barangays (villages), except Apao, were in town for the wake of the late Mayor Clarence Benwaren’s parent-in-law.
Even the local town council has not held a single session, according to Councilor Soledad Zapata, who was with Councilor Rey Tandi during the press conference. Zapata said Vice-mayor Noel Quesada, Crisologo’s running mate did not convene any session.
Crisologo is allegedly holding office in Barangay Ubbog-Lipcan in Bangued, Abra and not in Tineg that his constituents spend on fare to avail of his services.
“Masapol nga agawid da iti Tineg tapno kitaen da’t kasasaad ti tattao,” (They should go back to Tineg to see to the people’s welfare) Zapata said.
This counters the administrative complaint filed against Crisologo before the provincial board, which clamored for his suspension and removal from office for dereliction of duty, gross negligence and abandonment of office.
Lawyer Estelita Cordero, representing Crisologo, said the present town hall is not in Agsimao, but in Caganayan. She explained that Agsimao was the former seat of power when the Crisologo’s political nemeses—the Benwarens—were holding the reigns of power.
Leaders from the different barangays said Tineg roads have been neglected. Health and other basic services left unattended.
“We have to walk two days on rough roads from Tineg to Bangued just to bring our products or a sick kin to the town center,” an elder said. “Nganngani matay kamin ti bisin,” (We are almost dying of hunger) he said, adding they have rice and farm animals but they lack salt and other spices and condiments to go with their farm produce.
The old man said it is hard for people to travel unmaintained roads. He said no public transport could afford to ply Tineg roads these days.
The speakers also accused Crisologo for reporting projects that were not implemented.
In an open letter to Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, residents said Crisologo did not implement projects as stated in a 2006 disbursement report he and town treasurer Nenita G. Eduarte submitted.
According to Cosme Calubing, civil registry officer, only one project was implemented in that period. It is worth a little less than P1 million and the disbursements was only up to P450,000 at the time the report was made.
The total reported disbursements in 2006 was P2,564,626, broken down into 17 projects based on the municipal treasurer’s report, which Crisologo also signed.
Cordero said the complaints that Crisologo was pocketing the IRA is unfounded saying the Commission on Audit (COA), which conducts quarterly reviews of how Tineg town spent its funds never found out anything unauthorized.
Tineg is among the poorest towns in Abra and the Cordillera. GMA included it among the recipients of the financial assistance for the poorest of the poor.
The town’s population was 5,042 in the 2000 census. It decreased to 4,317 in the 2007 enumeration due to out-migration, according to Calubing.
“People are moving to other places because the town is too poor. It offers no livelihood opportunities and the peace and order situation is unstable,” he said.
Cordero said the complaint with the provincial board, which they never got a copy of, was “pulled out” from the desk of the board secretary, “because the complainants were fictitious.”
The same administrative complaint charged Crisologo with the same issues raised by village leaders in Tineg including Zapata and Tandi.
Cordero said, Tandi, who accordingly is facing at least two cases before the Comelec-CAR for mauling a child during the last SK polls, has an ax to grind against the mayor because the councilor thinks it was Crisologo who was behind his cases before the election body.
The absenteeism charge is pure hogwash, added Cordero. She claimed Crisologo is doing his functions and accessing funds from the national government as she defended his frequent trips to Manila.
Cordero argued the last of the 25 functions of mayors as stated in the Local Government Code is going to office.
“The mayor is doing everything for the town, but it does not please everybody,” Cordero said. “Politics is closely intertwined with these issues,” she added.
The councilors and barangay leaders never uttered a word asking Crisologo to step down, instead they only asked their mayor to return to Tineg. # Lyn V. Ramo with reports from Ace Alegre