TUGUEGARAO CITY, Philippines- Vice Governor Melvin “Boy” Vargas on Wednesday, May 23, challenged the executive department led by Governor Manuel Mamba to settle in court, if necessary, the issue over control of the Provincial Learning and Resource Center (PLRC).
“I’m humbly appealing to the governor. Let the courts decide. Kung gusto po nilang i-settle ito, settle it in court but not with an executive order which I treat is just a piece of paper. It’s not valid. Appropriation ordinance po ang masusunod po diyan hindi ang executive order,” Vargas told media.
Mamba earlier issued an executive order reclaiming the PLRC from the Sangguniang Panlalawigan (SP).
Mamba reasoned out that the PLRC had been “originally and traditionally under the administration, control, and supervision of the Office of the Governor.”
Since 1999, the provincial library’s budget has been aligned with the SP. The control of PLRC has since been under the provincial board.
Vargas said the 2017 appropriation ordinance approved by the SP is a “strong basis” because the local law was approved and supported by line agencies such as the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), Commission on Audit (COA), and Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG).
The ordinance also states that the vice governor, as presiding officer, is the appointing authority of the library and signatory of all financial responsibilities of the PLRC, Vargas said.
“I don’t see any reason bakit gusto pong kunin sa atin while in fact, na-deprive po ng pondo yan. The funds of the [PLRC] was slashed up to 50% and now they are trying to claim,” he added.
Vargas said snatching the library from the SP would pose heavier problems for the governor because the appropriation ordinance of 2017 puts the library and its budget under the SP.
“Mas lalo tayong magkakaproblema doon dahil na-approve nga ng DBM ang budget ng probinsya na ako ang pumipirma sa mga DTR ng mga empleyado at bigla na lang siya [Mamba] ang pipirma ng DTR ng mga empleyado, magkakaroon ng problema yan,” Vargas said.
Mamba’s 2018 budget proposal states that PLRC’s budget remains with SP, Vargas said.
The vice governor expressed concern over Mamba’s reported hold of salaries of PLRC’s staff.
“Ngayon there is a directive na he is stopping the salaries. Late na ang pagpasuweldo ng PLRC eh pero he signed the bonus. And then mas lalo niyang ilalagay yung sarili niya sa alanganin [dahil] pinirmahan niya yung bonus pero yung salaries hindi niya pinirmahan. What’s the reason of that?” Vargas said.
“Hindi na lang sana maapektuhan diyan yung mga nagsesweldo diyan sa provincial learning and resource center dahil yung mga tao diyan they also have children, three or four. They have mouths to feed. Bakit because of politics naapektuhan naman yung source of income nila?” he added.
No legal basis?
Provincial Legal Officer Lawyer Vicente Lasam on Wednesday, May 23, called SP’s control over PLRC an “anomaly” and “illegal.”
Lasam added that the executive branch is the sole authority in managing public service offices.
“The public library is a public service institution. It caters to the needs of the population [and of] the public. The mandate of the SP does not give them any activity or any authority to give service to the public, only legislation,” he said.
The lawyer further said SP was unable to give them a resolution or ordinance that formally transfers the control of PLRC to the SP.
“You cannot transfer an office by transferring the budget…It cannot be done. [Illegal yun,] natural. That is ultra vires. That is beyond the office of the [SP],” an irate Lasam said during the Capitol Online show of the Provincial Information Office with its chief Rogie Sending.
However, the vice governor expressed concern over the continuity of programs of the PLRC such as the opening of barangay reading centers, donations of books from NGOs and line agencies, and other literacy programs.
“Innovative talaga sila diyan. Nafa-frustrate lang sila because of this political issue,” Vargas said.
Vargas told Mamba, “for the sake of humanitarian consideration,” to let the appropriation ordinance supersede the executive order.
“What is the executive order compared to the appropriation ordinance? Yan po ang inaprubahan ng sangguniang panlalawigan. Yan po ang sinuportahan ng DBM at ng COA,” he added.
SP earlier earlier cited Section 469 (c) (9) of the of the Local Government Code as one of their bases.
The provision states, the secretary to the sanggunian will “Take custody of the local archives and, where applicable, the local library and annually account for the same;”
Yet, Lasam read the provision as “where practicable” instead of “where applicable” and gave his interpretation.
With Lasam interpreting with the term “practicable,” the lawyer said the secretariat of the SP only has custody over archives and if the location is within the SP building.
“If the location of the provincial library is siguro practicable dun because isa lang ang management…, if the library is just a small outfit where it is practicable maybe for secretary to take custody, [yun]…It does not say that this vice governor will now appoint the officials of the provincial library,” the lawyer said.
Further, Lasam said there may be “presumption of regularity” because this has been the convention for the past years since 1999.
Vargas said this was only Lasam’s interpretation, reiterating that the issue be settled at court instead.
Despite the timing of the issue, Lasam said that the move is “not political” but an “entirely administrative” problem that “has to be solved.”
Sending, on the other hand, added that the governor merely wants to “correct” the “wrong” of having the library under the jurisdiction of the legislative branch.
“Hindi po ito usapin ng pulitka o ito ay extension ng hidwaan sa pulitika dahil, obviously, alam kong ikakawing ito sa usapin ng pulitika dahil hindi po magkasundo ang tanggapan ng bise gobernador at ng ating punong ehekutibo [pati] ang mayorya sa Sangguniang Panlalawigan,” Sending said.
Mamba’s proposed 2018 budget is still under scrutiny by SP as the board found “irregularities” and “inconsistencies” in the proposal. SP on February requested Mamba to consider the board’s clarifications but the governor has yet to convene the Provincial Development Council to “rectify” the budget plan.
Meanwhile, Lasam said they are ready to defend their stand should SP file a case.
“I told the [SP] we will not go to court. If gusto nilang pumunta sa korte, pumunta sila. Hindi tayo. Let them justify their position because I believe that the governor’s position is solid and iron-clad,” Lasam said.
Vargas told reporters they are already studying the legal aspects of the matter should the transfer happen.
“If we need to file then we will file. [This is] not for us but for the staff [and] for the employees of the PLRC. Kawawa naman sila. Buti sana kung lahat sila ay may kaya diyan. Paano na yung mga mababa ang rangko? Paano na yung mga pamilya nila at mga anak nila? Sana yun yung cinonsider sana ng local chief executive natin,” Vargas said.
The PLRC has currently around 30 employees with more appointees soon to supplement the number of retiring employees.
In an event at PLRC, Vargas assured they will still support PLRC amid the issue the offices is facing.
“Regardless of whatever the issue the PLRC is encountering as of now, being the father of the three offices [VGO, SP, and PLRC], nandirito lang ako sa tabi ninyo sumusuporta. Kahit anong program ang ibibigay natin sa mga kababayan because this is not for us, this is for the people, our constituents,” Vargas told PLRC staff. Northernforum.net