CLARK FREEPORT – He was cool, calm and composed as he explained why he remains unperturbed with accusations of alleged irregularities in his administration.
City of San Fernando Mayor Edwin “Edsa” D. Santiago said there are only three government agencies that can point to alleged irregularities in any administration – the Commission on Audit (COA), the Office of the Ombudsman and the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG).
Earlier, Association of Barangay Captains (ABC) president Vilma Caluag bared alleged anomalies on overpriced health coverage, questionable distribution on real property tax (RPT) and signing of blank documents at the city hall during the Balitaan media forum organized by the Capampangan in Media, Inc. (CAMI) at the Bale Balita here.
In his turn at the forum on Friday, Santiago said he respects Caluag because she is now an ex-officio member of the city council and therefore part of governance.
However, Santiago said Caluag should have used her powers as councilor to investigate or summon those involved in aid of legislation.
“Y Madam Vilma ene ordinaryung tau San Fernando, metung yang ex officio member… in short councilor ya, part ne ning pamangubyernu San Fernando anya amanwan ku pin nung nanu man ing sabyan na, buri ku sabyan mi-apektuhan ya naman (Madam Vilma is no longer an ordinary citizen of San Fernando, she is now an ex-officio member…in short she is now a councilor, she is part of the governance of San Fernando that is why I‘m telling you that whatever she is saying now it means she is also affected),” Santiago said.
The mayor said the city council is “a most powerful office.”
Santiago said he was also a councilor for 10 years and two terms as vice mayor that is why he knows the power of the city council.
“The city council is more powerful than the local government unit (LGU) more than the mayor because the mayor cannot work without the concurrence of the city council,” he explained.
“Eda ku dinan budget den manulang naku mu. Ala kung akarapat (If they don’t give me a budget, I will just catch dragonflies. I can’t do anything),” he said.
Santiago cautioned Caluag, saying she should be careful with her statements of irregularities because she is part of the government.
Santiago said it should be the COA, especially its office based in the city hall, that should be the first one to know if there is any irregularity.
But the COA itself has found no irregularity since the city government has incurred no disallowances from the COA, he said.
In fact, Santiago said, the city government is a recipient of the Seal of Good Local Governance (SGLG) for five consecutive years under his administration proving it has “zero disallowance” from COA.
Second, if the COA has uncovered alleged anomalies, then the proper venue to file a case is with the Office of the Ombudsman, the mayor said.
“Ing atin mung upayang magsalita ing Ombudsman nung atin kasu even ing COA ala yang karapatan nung sabyan ng atin case uling ing COA mag-file yamu kasu king Ombudsman para mika case number ya (The only one which is authorized to talk if there is a case is the Ombudsman, even COA has no authority to say if there is a case because it will only file a case before the Ombudsman so that it can have a case number),” Santiago explained.
The mayor said he has already requested a special audit as soon as he heard of Caluag’s allegations on the RPT distribution.
“Aku pulmeru papa- special audit ke ing RPT na ning San Fernando kabud abalitan ku migsalita ya (The first thing I did was to ask for a special audit of the RPT in San Fernando the moment I heard she uttered a statement),” he said. “Bangkanita aliwa aku ing sumabi (So that I will not be the one to make a statement).”
“So atin tamu ahensya na ning gubyernu atlu mu – COA, Ombudsman ampo DLIG (So we have only three agencies in government – COA, Ombudsman and DILG),” the mayor said, that could act with authority on any irregularity.
“Anyapin ala yang karapatan at manungkulan ya San Fernando (That is why she does not have the right since she is part of the governance of San Fernando),” Santiago said.
“Anya pin special ya immediate ya yan kasi dakal a mituran ken aliwa man aku mituran mumunang dili ing mituran ken ing assessor tamu, kadwa ing treasurer. Dapat kutnan no pa reta, payaus no keng city council in aid of legislation (That is why it is special because it is immediate since there are many who will be made accountable, I will not even be blamed but the first one to be answerable will be our assessor and secondly the treasurer. She should first ask them, summon them to the city council and investigate in aid of legislation),” Santiago said. “…gamitan me ing power mu. Gamitan me ing isip at pusu mu para malinawan ing eganagana (…use your power. Use your mind and your heart so that everything will be clarified).”
When asked why former mayors Oscar S. Rodriguez and Dr. Rey B. Aquino have openly declared their support to Caluag, Santiago said no one in San Fernando, not even him, can dictate their will on the people.
But he said he has high regards for both Rodriguez and Aquino.
“Anya potang magsalita ku abe ke i pareng Oca ampo Dr. Aquino, ing kontribusyun da San Fernando e biru-biru, gewa deng component city (That is why when I make a speech, I mention my friend Oca and Dr. Aquino because their contribution to San Fernando is no joke, they made it a component city),” he said.
When Aquino was mayor, he played a major role in launching the cityhood movement while Rodriguez was congressman who filed House Bill 9267 creating the City of San Fernando which was eventually converted into a component city in 2001.
“Dening taung areni atin lang contributions San Fernando nung nanu man itang maging desisyun da, I will always respect their decisions. (These people have their contributions to San Fernando whatever their decisions are, I will always respect their decisions),” he said.
“However, nung election ing pisasabyan ing San Fernando kasi eme a diktan (However, if we are talking about election San Fernando cannot be dictated),” he pointed out. “Deng tau San Fernando mulat la (The people of San Fernando are well informed).”
“Pero ing pamurin mag desisyun deng memalen (But the one who will finally make a decision will be the people),” he added.
Santiago is running for reelection, his third term, against Caluag, his lone opponent, in the coming May polls.