By Chito Chavez
Following the order of President Duterte to the hilt, the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) has filed administrative charges against two more mayors for failing to comply with the government’s strict road clearing directive.
Duterte, in his state-of-the-nation-address (SONA) last year, issued a direct order to DILG Secretary Eduardo M. Año to supervise the road clearing operations and make roads accessible for public use.
Both mayors are now facing administrative cases for gross neglect of duty and grave misconduct before the Ombudsman.
DILG Undersecretary and Spokesperson Jonathan Malaya noted that the identities of the mayors were deliberately withheld by the DILG, explaining the focus should be on the local government units (LGUs).
“We meant it when we said that cases will be filed against negligent local execs. Unless local chief executives get their acts together and take the President’s instructions to clear roads seriously, they will be held accountable and face charges,” Año said.
Año noted that this is the second batch of cases filed before the Office of the Ombudsman after the two local chief executives (LCEs) failed to satisfactorily respond to the show cause orders issued by the DILG, and were among those who obtained the lowest scores in the validation and assessment conducted by the department.
“The municipalities of Motiong and Boliney obtained a total score of not more than 50 points in the indicators set by the DILG. Such scores translated to their glaring failure to follow the rule of law that public streets are for public use,” Año said.
During the assessment and inspection of the validating team in Motiong, nine roads were found with illegally parked vehicles, barangay structures, store encroachments, shanties, garbage dumps, canal obstructions, plants, and construction materials as obstructions.
On the other hand, the validating team found out that the municipality of Boliney failed to present an inventory of the provincial, municipal, and barangay roads in their area.
An identified provincial road was also found with extended canopies as obstructions.
Both LGUs also failed to come up with any rehabilitation and sustainability plans, nor have they set up a grievance and feedback mechanism on clearing of road obstructions.
In October last year, the DILG issued show cause orders to 97 LGUs across the country demanding their explanation for their non-compliance with the DILG’s directive based on the assessment and validation conducted by the Department.
After the validation, the first batch of administrative cases for gross neglect of duty and grave misconduct were filed with the Office of the Ombudsman in January against the municipal mayors of Baco, Oriental Mindoro; Pili, Camarines Sur; Ginatilan, Cebu; Pagsanghan, Samar; Aurora and Lapuyan, Zamboanga Del Sur; Sagay and Guinsiliban, Camiguin; Manticao, Misamis Oriental; and Caraga, Davao Oriental.
The DILG chief said all local government units (LGUs) were given sufficient time to comply with the President’s directive, but the 12 officials showed negligence, dereliction of duty, and lack of cooperation.
“The 12 LGUs registered the lowest validation scores in the stringent nationwide evaluation and monitoring by the DILG despite our giving them enough time and fair warning,” he added.
Año urged the Ombudsman to immediately act on the cases filed by the DILG “to prove that the government meant business when it ordered the clearing of all roads for the use of motorists and pedestrians.’’
“More cases will be filed as soon as our lawyers have finished reviewing the validation reports and the corresponding answers by the mayors,” he vowed.
Heeding the Presidential directive, the DILG released Memorandum Circular 2019-121 ordering LCEs to use all their powers under the law to reclaim public roads being used for private ends.
Malaya said the road clearing operations will continue as the DILG recently gave a 75-calendar-day deadline to clear not just national primary and secondary roads, but also local roads.
“With Road Clearing 2.0, we will now also validate the performance of barangay captains in keeping their roads obstruction-free,’’ Malaya said.
Malaya explained that Road Clearing 2.0, which commenced on Feb. 17 this year, mandates punong barangays (barangay heads) to also be at the helm of clearing local and barangay roads and minor public-use streets within their area of jurisdiction, including the maintenance of other local roads turned over by the city or municipal government.
He added that road obstructions such as vehicles parked in prohibited places specified in Republic Act No. 4136 or the Land Transportation and Traffic Code, or in sidewalks, paths, or alleys; vehicular terminals except in areas allowed by the LGU; vending sites of any kind of items; house encroachments that obstruct the road right-of-way, protruding gates, and tents, among others; and store encroachments and indiscriminate signages and advertisements must be removed from all roads.
“Obstructing barangay outposts, halls, markers, and directories; conduct of sports, sports facilities, and other related activities; drying of rice and other crops; construction materials; debris, waste materials, and other junked items; and other obstruction materials identified by the LGU are also prohibited and must be cleared by the barangay,’’ he added.
Malaya also said that obstructing trees may be pruned or removed in coordination with the local office of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, while posts, meters, instrumentation boxes, and the like that cause road obstruction must be coordinated with the utility company and the LGU for possible relocation.