Zamboanga Sibugay town village chiefs may face election violations raps

IPIL, Philippines – More than half of the 29 barangay chairmen of Siay town in Zamboanga Sibugay may face election violation charges after over 400 barangay workers and town residents had sought the help of the provincial office of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) for the “political harassments” they experienced after the May 13 elections.

Maritess Sario had been a Barangay Health Worker (BHW) of Barangay Laih since 2009.

She was terminated last March 5 by her barangay chair, Jean Enopia. The reason, she believed, was her being suspected a supporter of mayoralty candidate Maridel Maulana.

Maulana ran against the incumbent mayor, Jarvis Acosta in the May 13 mid-term polls. She lost, however, to Acosta by over 700 votes.

Her fellow workers, Barangay Secretary Emmanuel Vesagas also received his termination letter dated May 21, more than a month after he was appointed in April.

In Barangay Balingasan, Angie Abejo was a Barangay Nutrition Scholar (BNS) staff for 13 years until her termination on May 27.

Other barangay workers had similar tales of what they call as “politically-motivated actions.”

They were told that the reason for their terminations was the “loss of trust and confidence.”

Oliver Ombos, DILG provincial director, said it is within the power of the barangay captain “to hire or fire a worker.”

“But this time, the terminations of these barangay workers were done during the election period,” he pointed out.

It is an election offense to terminate these workers during the election period, he said.

The election period started January 13 until June 12.

Susana Alonzo, a resident of Barangay Siay Logpond, had a different story.

Her family relied on fishing for their daily needs. After the elections, she alleged, the barangay chairman, Ernesto Dolar, no longer allowed her family to fish because “we supported Maulana.”

“Dakpon mi sa bantay sa dagat (The bantay dagat personnel arrest us),” she claimed. Bantay Dagat refers to a task force created by the local government units to apprehend illegal fishing.

But the fishing method her family used in fishing was not illegal, she said.

The situation had only become difficult for her family after the elections.

Ombos advised the barangay workers and residents to formalize their complaints as he told them that his office had already conducted an investigation.

Last week, the provincial director said, more than 100 barangay workers and residents had already approached his office.

“I will be fair in handling this situation,” he assured the complainants.

The results of the investigation will be forwarded to the legal division of the DILG in the central office for appropriate action, he said.

In the meantime, he encouraged the aggrieved party to come forward and have their complaints formalized. (Mindanao Sun)

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