The Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) assured Sunday that the agency will file charges against Tuguegarao City Mayor Jefferson Soriano before the Office of the Ombudsman if he fails to provide a justifiable reason for his absence from his city at the height of typhoon “Ulysses’’.
DILG Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya in an interview over DZBB explained that “as a standard operating procedure and in deference to him (Soriano) as an elected local government official, we will give him due process’’.
Malaya said that the mayor will be asked to explain why he was “missing in action’’ in his jurisdiction during the typhoon.
With varying reports received by the DILG, Malaya said that Soriano is compelled to provide the DILG with the circumstances regarding his absence from his locality during the weather disturbance.
“Iba-iba yung kwentong naririnig natin, yung iba umalis daw sya Linggo pa, Sunday pa lang wala na siya sa Cagayan ano, yung iba naman Thursday so aalamin natin yung circumstances at tingnan natin kung katanggap-tanggap yung kanyang paliwanag (We received varying news. Others said that he left on a Sunday (Nov. 8) so he was not in Cagayan since Sunday. Some said he was out of the province on Thursday (Nov. 5). So we have to verify the circumstances and determine if his reasons for his absence are justifiable),’’ Malaya said.
If Soriano’s reasons are unjustified, Malaya said Soriano will face charges for violation of the DILG’s Oplan Listo (awareness) protocols.
When asked what possible penalties Soriano could face in case he violated the DILG’s protocol, Malaya explained that the Office of the Ombudsman has the authority to impose disciplinary actions against the local government units (LGUs) with the DILG merely filing the charges.
To recall, Malaya said that the DILG received information of Soriano’s absence in his area of jurisdiction during the onslaught of typhoon “Ulysses” from concerned citizens.
“Actually ang mga ating kababayan na ang nagrereport at nagpapasalamat po kami sa inyo dahil natutulungan nyo kami sa DILG (Actually our citizens reported (the absence of Soriano) and we are thankful to them since they are helping us at the DILG),’’ he added.
Malaya confirmed that Soriano was interviewed during the Laging Handa press briefing on Saturday (Nov. 14) where he admitted being absent from his turf during the typhoon.
Soriano reasoned out having asked the permission of Cagayan province Governor Manuel Mamba before leaving Tuguegarao City for Batangas.
But Malaya will have none of this insisting that the governor has no authority to issue exemptions to any local officials with regards to the DILG’s Oplan Listo protocols.
When DILG Secretary Eduardo Año assumed his post, Malaya clarified that the policy for all the mayors to be present during disasters was adopted.
“Kailangan po lahat ng mayor must be accounted for and kung wala sila there must be a justifiable reason. So yun po ang aming sinusunod mula nung naupo si Sec Ano sa DILG (All the mayors must be accounted for and there must be a justifiable reason in case they are absent),’’ Malaya said.
“So it is part of the responsibility of the DILG to determine kung ano ang nangyari at bakit wala siya sa kanyang area of responsibility (…what happened and inquire why he was absent in his area of responsibility),’’ he noted.
After receiving reports that Soriano was in Batangas to celebrate his birthday, Malaya admitted being disheartened stressing he could have done the celebration in his home turf knowing that there was a storm coming.
Stressing his point further, Malaya emphasized that the whole country already knew about the approaching typhoon as the advisory was given to the local government units in Luzon as early as November 9 but Soriano still left his turf.
“So if we find probable cause dito sa kanyang negligence or misconduct or dereliction of duty hindi po mag-aatubili ang DILG to file the necessary charges against him sa Office of the Ombudsman (for his negligence or misconduct or dereliction of duty the DILG will not hesitate to file charges against him before the Office of the Ombudsman), Malaya stressed. (Chito A. Chavez)