By: Emme Rose Santiagudo
FOLLOWING the recent turn of events concerning the City Treasuer Jinny Hermano and his strong refusal to release the salaries of job hires resulting in alleged threats to his life, Mayor Jose Espinosa III issued directed Atty. Mary Joan Montaño-Pallada of the Internal Audit Service (IAS) Office head to audit the City Treasurer’s Office.
Espinosa’s order is contained in Memorandum Order No. 56 dated March 14, 2019 pursuant to Section 470 (a) of the Local Government Code.
Based on the memorandum, Pallada is directed to immediately conduct and make an audit and investigation of all tax collections efforts and actual collections of the City Treasurer’s Office (CTO) in view of the continuous claims of Hermano that the City Hall lacks cash back up.
The mayor also directed Pallada to investigate the delay in the processing of papers and claims before the CTO and to render reports 48 hours after receipt of the order.
In an interview, City Administrator Hernando Galvez said the audit would shed light on the claims of Hermano that the city lacks or might run out of money.
“Ang siyudad isa sa manggaranon nga siyudad. Ngaa wala ta kwarta haw, kay Marso pa lang? Isa na sa focus,” he said.
The outcome of the audit would also answer the cause of the consistent delays in the salaries of job hires, Galvez added.
“We include funds, processes, and everything which causes the delay so as to address the matter,” he said.
Hermano had been refusing to release the budget for the job hires claiming that each office must keep within the allocated number of job hires.
Under a reenacted budget, Hermano said that once the number of job hires exceeds the allotted workers for each office, the appropriations might not be enough.
Earlier, Hermano also claimed that the 2019 annual budget for the city is short by P74 million, based on the projected income certified by the Local Finance Committee.
According to Galvez, Hermano had been refusing to follow orders from the mayor directing him to release budget for the salaries of job hires despite two legal opinions from the City Legal Office (CLO), which he both rejected.
Two legal opinions dated March 12 and 13, 2019 and signed by Atty. Roledo Dela Cruz, CLO head, were sent to Hermano as regards the salaries.
In the March 13 opinion, Hermano cited Section 342 of RA 7160 (Local Government Code).
The Sec. 342 titled “Liability for Acts Done Upon Direction of Superior Officer, or Upon Participation of Other Department Heads or Officers of Equivalent Rank”, states that “unless he registers his objection in writing, the local treasurer, accountant, budget officer, or other accountable officer shall not be relieved of liability for illegal or improper use or application or deposit of government funds or property by reason of his having acted upon the direction of a superior officer, elective or appointive, or upon participation of other department heads or officers of equivalent rank”.
But the CLO opinion said Hermano misinterpreted the section.
“In interpreting the said provision law, the city treasurer contended ‘signing with objection’ under Section 342 of RA 7160 will not relieve him from liability and/or excuse the undersigned city treasurer from being charged criminally and administratively by any citizen for mismanagement of public funds. We do not agree. Such interpretation is clearly absurd,” read part of the legal opinion.
The legal opinion added that “the City Treasurer is vested with no power to withhold salaries already certified by the City Budget Officer, City Accountant, and the head of the department or office.”
Citing Sec. 344 of the Local Government Code, the City Legal Office maintained that “the power of city treasurer is merely limited to certifying the availability of funds.”
On March 13, Espinosa directed Hermano to act upon the payrolls of the job hires.
“Return to your office for immediate action. This action is in accordance with the comments and recommendations of the City Legal Office dated March 12, 2019. You are hereby directed to act within the 24 hours from receipt here of under pain of administrative sanction. If you have objection or doubt to said particular disbursement, find comfort in Section 342 of the LGU,” according to Espinosa’s Memorandum No. 54.
But this, too, was also denied by Hermano resulting in some job hires to confront him in his office for their delayed salaries from January to March.
Galvez said he was saddened by the actuation of the City Treasurer which according to him is very detrimental to public welfare.
“Gakibot sa sina panindugan. Very detrimental sa ikaayo sang mga pumuluyo especially sa affected job hires kay para sa aton klarado ang Sec. 342 of the Local government Code nga kon may pagduha-duha ma-register siya sang iya objection, indi niya pagisakripisyo ang sweldo sang tawo nga amo na ang ila kabuhi,” he stressed.
According to Galvez, the refusal of Hermano was a clear defiance of the mayor’s memorandum.
“It was in clear defiance of the memorandum of the mayor directing him to act on the claim on payment for job hires which Sir Jinny should be reminded that the memorandum of the mayor is presumed to be valid and proper,” he said.
He added that the simple remedy for Hermano was to register his objection into writing and not hold the payrolls of the job hires.
“He has to comply it and his remedy is to simply register his objection. Ang pagbayad sa serbisyo sang tawo is mandatory obligation,” he stressed.
Galvez said Hermano’s actions point to “sabotage,” especially with the approaching elections.
“For him to insist, may something, daw may pwersa. Sang una sang wala election, pagsulod mo payroll sa aga, okay na pag-check mo sa hapon. Subong nga nagalapit ang election, nagabuhay nga wala man nagbag-o. Daw kalain man hambalon nga sabotahe pero daw matemptar ka mahambal sabotahe. Daw indi mo malikawan manumdum,” he said.