TUGUEGARAO CITY, Philippines- Cagayan Provincial Board once again requested Provincial Office for People Empowerment (POPE) Head Ignacio “Bobot” Taruc to personally attend session and answer the board’s inquiry on the role of Agkaikaisa Cagayan organization in barangays.
In their 82nd Regular Session on Wednesday, April 04, the Sangguniang Panlalawigan (SP) noted Taruc’s absence despite repeated calls for the Mamba ally to attend session.
The board has been critical of the said organization initiated by Governor Manuel Mamba in barangays of the province, questioning its intentions.
This issue also stemmed after several barangay officials told SP that they feel bypassed by Agkaikaisa over identifying projects to be implemented from the provincial government’s P500,000 financial assistance to barangays.
Barangay officials also alleged that Agkaikaisa members have taken full power on handling the P200,000 soft project funds for barangays, alleging that the “awarding ceremony” captains attended was merely for photo ops.
Before the POPE was able to deliver an answer to the board, SP called the Agkaikaisa as mere “political machineries” of Mamba.
Taruc reportedly tasked former POPE Head Ruelie Rapsing to answer SP on his behalf. Yet, Rapsing too was unable to attend session this Wednesday as he also attended an “urgent matter.”
Rapsing, however, submitted a response via letter to Vice Governor Melvin “Boy” Vargas. He clarified that Agkaikaisa does “not to intervene nor usurp on the authority of the barangay in implementing projects.”
“Agkaikaisa merely helps in the conduct of community participatory rapid appraisal in identifying urgent projects needed by the community. Members are residents of barangays themselves. They know what projects are needed most in their actual community,” Rapsing wrote.
He said the Agkaikaisa organizations “encourage the barangays to submit documents such as resolutions and other pertaining documents needed in implementing projects for the barangay.”
“Agkaikaisa organizations encourage the barangays to submit liquidation for them to immediately avail of another financial assistance from the province,” he added.
Rapsing also attached in the letter the “menu for development assistance for local government units” and the POPE’s brochure.
Further, in a budget deliberation in a session last year, Rapsing said Agkaikaisa will only “assist” barangays.
Despite Rapsing’s explanation, First District Board Member Maria Olivia Pascual asked the board to send another letter inviting the POPE Head Taruc, not Rapsing.
Pascual said Taruc needs to “explain deeper the concept of Agkaikaisa.”
“We sent them a letter to appear personally. We understand the letter. It was nicely done but we still insist that the head of the POPE should appear before us,” Pacual said, adding that the board can even have a special session just to accommodate Taruc.
Further, the lawmaker questioned if the Agkaikaisa strips off barangay officials’ responsibilities as elected officials since Rapsing said members of the organization do have authority to identify the projects of barangays.
Governor Mamba earlier described the Agkaikaisa as “guards” of the provincial government, adding that he does not easily trust barangay officials.
“Ibibigay pero kami mag-iimplement. Paano mo maibibigay kung wala kang guwardya? Ano yung sabi ni presidente? 40% of barangay officials are involved in drugs. Ayoko yung basta magtiwala [sa barangay],” he said.
Mamba also said they are still releasing P200,000 aid from the administration of then-Governor Alvaro Antonio. He added that barangays must first liquidate expenses from this aid before availing the full P500,000 Mamba assistance.
Yet, Vargas revealed in this week session that, according to the provincial accountant, almost 80% of barangays have already liquidated their expenses.
With this, the board questioned why the Mamba admin pressures them in approving the 2018 budget when the 2017 aid to barangay funds are yet to be downloaded.
“Which is which? Sino pa po ang nagsasabi ng totoo? Yung Provincial Accountant na mas nakakaalam po sa liquidation, o ito pong ating chief executive? That up to now the whole of the 500,000 is not yet being distributed while in fact we already approved the financial assistance of 500,000 last year,” Vargas said. Northernforum.net