Iriga mayor called out on SAP violations

Camarines Sur 2nd district Rep. LRay Villafuerte exposed during a House panel hearing Thursday afternoon the alleged violations and "gross abuse" of Iriga City Mayor Madelaine Alfelor in the distribution of emergency cash aid under the national government's Social Amelioration Program (SAP).

Rep. LRay Villafuerte

In his two-hour questioning of Alfelor--who honored the summon of the Committee on Good Government and Public Accountability by personally appearing in the hearing--Villafuerte raised a list of accusations against the local chief executive, which include given the cash subsidy to unqualified individuals, including her relatives; the non-wearing of face mask while out in public; and the highly-politicized manner of distributing SAP.

Villafuerte, a Deputy Speaker, said among those that the lady official personally handed out P5,000 in SAP money to were her employees at the University of Northeastern Philippines (UNEP). He said in a previous hearing that the mayor's family owned UNEP.

Attending the hearing as resource persons were DSWD officials led by Secretary Rolando Bautista, since the hearing was about various irregularities in the SAP.

"Nandito po ang DSWD para mabigla po sila sa karumal-dumal na pag-aabuso ng SAP sa siyudad ng Iriga (The DSWD was invited here so they may get shocked by Iriga City's gross abuses on SAP)," said the congressman, who is a former Camarines Sur governor.

"Ang point ko lang pumirma siya ng MOA , hinandle niya ang P70-plus billion, with an excuse na hindi niya nai-intindihan (My point is that she signed a Memorandum of Agreement with the DSWD, she handled P70-plus billion with an excuse that she didn't understand the difference between formal and informal workers).

The mayor admitted that she belatedly understood the distinction after conferring with DSWD Region V Director Arnel Garcia. Only workers from the informal sector may avail of SAP, the DSWD said.

"Ikaw ba ang nagbigay ng SAP sa empleyado? Sinabi po niya hindi. Nandito po ang tatlong teacher na makakapagsabi na hindi siya nagsasabi ng totoo (Did you get SAP to your employees? She said no. We have here three teachers who can say that she was not telling the truth)," Villafuerte said. He read parts of the testimonies of the teachers and have them confirm it under oath before the House panel.

Mayor Alfelor is the daughter of the late Camarines Sur congressman, Ciriaco Alfelor and granddaughter of former Camarines Sur Governor Felix Alfelor.

Villafuerte said that one Armand Martirez Lastrella of Naga City was able to receive SAP money in San Miguel, Iriga. Lastrella is the brother-in-law of Ronald Alfelor, brother of Mayor Alfelor.

He noted that Lastrella wasn't qualified to receive SAP from Iriga's downloaded funds since he was not a resident of the place and he is rich. "May kaya sa buhay...Nagpunta pa raw sa Amerika to. Kamag-anak ni Mayor Madel (He is well-to-do...he has even travelled to America. A relative of Mayor Madel's)."

"Ano pong masasabi mo na napakaraming tao, binigyan niyo po ng SAP na hindi qualified? (What can you say about your giving SAP to so many unqualified people?)" Villafuerte asked the local chief executive.

"I would like to repeat, hindi po ako ang nag-aapprove, hindi po ako ang pumipirma ng application, hindi po ako gumagawa ng payroll. Hindi ko po talaga alam yan. (I would like to repeat, I'm not the one who approves, or signs applications, or makes the payroll. I really don't know anything about that)," Mayor Alfelor said.

Regarding the case of Lastrella, she said, "Kung qualified naman siya, bakit po hindi siya pwedeng bigyan if ever? Kaya po may grievance committee (If he's qualfied anyway, why can't he be given cash aid, if ever? That's the reason why we have a grievance comittee)."

"That's the reason why all these lists were all posted on the barangay hall so that people can see at to whether they are qualified or not. If they have questions, you can usually go to the grievance committee of the DSWD and the DSWD will decide as to whether they are disqualified or not," she explained.

LGUs identify beneficiaries 

However, Bautista clarified to the panel that it is the local government unit (LGU) that has final say as to who can receive this emergency subsidy in the time of COVID-19.

"Nakasaad po sa MOA. Kung dedetalyehin natin ang MOA ay talagang binigay natin ang responsibilidad sa mga ang pag-identify ng mga beneficiary. (It's in the MOA. If we look at the MOA's details, it says there that we gave the responsibility of identifying the beneficiaries to the LGUs)," the DSWD chief said.

Earlier in the hearing, Mayor Alfelor confirmed to the solons that she was immunocompromised and was suffering from type 2 diabetes. "In fact nag-i-insulin po ako every day (In fact I take insulin every day)," she said.

To this, the Deputy Speaker showed several pictures from the lady mayor's own Facebook page showing her out in public without a face mask on.

"Nag-iikot po siya sa kalye, nagta-trapik po siya. Siya mismo nagbibigay ng SAC (She's walking out in the streets, managing traffic. She's personally handing out Social Amelioration Cards). She said she is immunocompromised and yet she's compromising the safety of their residents," Villafuerte said.

He also claimed that the SAP distribution in Iriga was "highly-politicized," as some barangay captains who were not allied with the city hall were reportedly snubbed and their constituents left out.

One such barangay captain is Michael Emmanuel Alfelor of San Roque, Iriga City. "Never po nila akong ininvite sa kahit anong gathering regarding sa amelioration (I was never invited to any gathering regarding sa amelioration)," he said.

Asked why he thought that happened, he replied: "Siguro po dahil sa hindi ako kaalyado nila. Kasi ang binigyan po nila ng pabor sa amelioration ay yung mga kalaban ko sa konseho sa barangay which is tatakbo daw na kapitan sa next election (Maybe it's because I'm not allied with them. The ones they favored with the amelioration are my rivals in the barangay council who will supposedly run for captain in the next election)."

"Sila din yung nagturo ng mga recipient at sila din po yung mga kagawad na pumirma ng na ako dapat ang pumirma (They were also the ones who chose the recipients and signed the SACs that I should be signing)," he added.

Villafuerte is one of the main authors of the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, which paved the way for the SAP. His son, Migz Villafuerte, is the current governor or Camarines Sur.