By Chito Chavez
The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) said on Sunday it has filed administrative raps against 10 local chief executives (LCEs) before the Office of the Ombudsman for their non-compliance to President Duterte’s strict order “to clear roads of illegal obstructions and return to the public the use of all major roads and highways.’’
DILG Secretary Eduardo M. Año warned that more heads will roll citing “this is just the first batch of cases filed before the Office of the Ombudsman after these local chief executives failed to satisfactorily answer the Show Cause Orders issued by the Department.’’
“We will file the succeeding batches as soon as our lawyers have finished reviewing the validation reports and the corresponding answers by the mayors,” Año said.
Administrative cases for gross neglect of duty and grave misconduct were filed with the Office of the Ombudsman against the mayors of the Municipality of Baco, Oriental Mindoro; Municipality of Pili, Camarines Sur; Municipality of Ginatilan, Cebu; Municipality of Pagsanghan, Samar; Municipality of Aurora and Lapuyan, Zamboanga Del Sur; Municipality Sagay and Guinsiliban, Camuigin; Municipality of Manticao, Misamis Oriental; and Municipality of Caraga, Davao Oriental.
Año urged the Ombudsman to immediately act on the cases filed by the DILG to prove the government is serious in returning all roads for the enjoyment and utilization of the public.
“We hope that the Ombudsman will act on our complaint with dispatch and urgency,” he said.
The DILG chief stressed the filing of cases is long overdue as all local government units (LGUs) were given reasonable time to comply with the President’s directive to reclaim all public roads that are being used for private ends – but the said LCEs showed negligence, dereliction of duty, and lack of cooperation.
“This first batch of mayors failed to perform their duty to clear their roads of obstructions, they did not develop or implement any displacement program or plan, they do not have any long-term rehabilitation and sustainability plan in place, and they failed to set up a feedback or grievance mechanism for their constituents; hence, we are compelled to seek their suspension from office,” he said.
When the road-clearing directive was issued, Año noted the DILG was bent on carrying out the President’s order as the local chief executives were repeatedly warned of sanctions for non-compliance.
“We took very seriously President Duterte’s order for the DILG to lead the road-clearing efforts and file cases against non-compliant LGUs, if need be,” Año said.
President Duterte, in his last State of the Nation Address, ordered the DILG to lead in the road clearing operations and suspend non-compliant LCEs.
Subsequently, heeding the Presidential directive, the DILG released Memorandum Circular 2019-121 directing LCEs to use all their powers under the law to reclaim public roads being used for private ends.
“These 10 LGUs have registered the lowest validation scores through the stringent nationwide evaluation and monitoring of the DILG. Hindi naman tayo nagkulang ng paalala sa mga pamahalaang lokal (We have continuously reminded the local government units about this),’’ he explained.
The DILG issued show-cause orders last October to 97 LGUs around the country seeking their explanation for their non-compliance to the DILG’s directive based on the assessment and validation conducted by the department.
DILG Undersecretary and spokesman Jonathan Malaya said that the department will soon issue a new directive for a new 75-day road-clearing operation.
“We noticed that some of the obstructions have returned and the LGUs have done nothing to stop their return, especially during the holidays,” Malaya said.
“We hope that all our mayors understand that this is now a policy of the government until the end of this administration. They will have to lead and do their responsibilities. Otherwise, they will face charges and the threat of suspension,” he added.
Malaya stressed the challenge is to sustain the gains of the road clearing last year for the long run so “the secretary will soon issue a new directive to ensure that all encroachments are permanently removed and that LGUs are vigilant in enforcing the law.”