7 Capiz board members sued for ‘sabotaging’ COVID response

By Felipe V. Celino

ROXAS CITY, Capiz – Seven members of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan(SP) of Capiz are facing administrative charges for allegedly sabotaging the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) response program of the province.

The complaint was filed by Capiz Governor Esteban Evan Nonoy Contreras before the Office of the President against Provincial Board Members Jonathan Besa, Enrique Martin, Weldie Apolinario Jr, Thea Faith Reyes, Mateo Hachuela, Philippine Councilors League provincial federation president and ex-officio member Mitchelle John Patricio, and Sangguniang Kabataan provincial federation president and ex-officio member Renzo Teves.

The seven were accused of grave abuse, gross negligence and gross misconduct which are penalized with dismissal from service and disqualification to hold any government office.

The complaint stemmed from the provincial board’s failure to approve the supplemental budget for the Roxas Memorial Provincial Hospital (RMPH) due to opposition from the seven respondents.

The seven board members claimed that the RMPH was mismanaged and was home to “ghost employees”, thus they cannot approve the budget until the issue is cleared.

In a 16-page complaint, Contreras asked Malacañang to investigate the board members based on Section 60 of the Republic Act 7160 of the Local Government Code.

Contreras denounced the delayed approval of RMPH’s supplemental budget which is a life-saving measure for the healthcare workers and patients of the hospital. He added that the respondent-board members held the provincial government “hostage” for blocking the measure.

Contreras won as an independent candidate in the 2019 elections against the bet of the Liberal Party who was then the incumbent governor of Capiz.

He said that the respondents have yet to explain their accusations against the alleged mismanagement of RMPH, the referral hospital for the pandemic and the Level II hospital in the province.

The Department of Health has recognized RMPH for its residency training programs, COVID response and management.

Also, the Commission on Audit did not find any irregularity in its procurement of medicines and other COVID-related requirements.

“Until now, the respondents could not name any specific ghost employee of the RMPH, could not point to any evidence of irregularity in the procurement and accounting of all drugs, medicines and supplies. It cannot be stressed enough that the RMPH plays a vital role in the COVID 19 response of the Province of Capiz,” he added.

The respondent board members laughed off the accusations against them.

Besa, who chaired the committee on appropriations, said the executive department could not yet present and explain the whereabouts of the P11-million budget for medicines and oxygen, and another P21 million for RMPH’s workers’ salaries.

He said the management failed to present documents to prove that the money was spent for the intended purposes.

Apolinario denied the accusation saying they were merely performing their legislative functions by defending the peoples’ money.