Mayor in spat with Red Cross to face probe-A A +A
Saturday, October 26, 2013
THE Office of the Ombudsman-Visayas will investigate Mayor Leoncio Evasco Jr. of Maribojoc, Bohol for allegedly stopping Philippine National Red Cross (PNRC) volunteers from distributing relief goods to families affected by earthquake in his municipality.
“We will look into possible misconduct on his part. We will also look into whether there was abuse of authority. He will be given time to explain,” Deputy Ombudsman for the Visayas Pelagio Apostol told reporters yesterday.
Evasco was embroiled in a controversy after reports he stopped Red Cross volunteers from distributing relief items in his town. Evasco allegedly insisted he wanted the distribution of relief goods centralized so all his constituents will equally receive the items.
Interviewed over GMA 7, the mayor admitted turning away the volunteers for failing to follow his town’s centralized system of distribution of relief goods, which he said was more equitable and dignified.
Evasco said he wanted to avoid chaotic lines and is willing to talk to the Red Cross to resolve the misunderstanding.
Sixteen people died in Maribojoc as a result of the Oct. 15 earthquake, the government’s national disaster council reported. About 20,000 residents were displaced. Extensive damage to two bridges isolated Maribojoc and Loon towns from outside help right after the quake.
In yesterday’s interview, Apostol said that Evasco should not have prevented the Red Cross volunteers from distributing the relief goods.
Red Cross is apolitical body, Apostol pointed out.
“Even in times of war, it remains a neutral organization so the distribution of relief goods should not be coursed through the local government units,” said Apostol.
“For as long as they (Red Cross volunteers) are serving the people, they are also serving the constituents of that particular community,” he said.
Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman Sixto Brillantes said the Comelec can file a “conspiracy to vote-buying” case against Evasco if he continues to insist on forcing the PRC to turn over relief goods to the local government.
“Kung ibibigay niya doon sa mga kandidato sa barangay, kasama siya sa vote-buying, kasama pa siya sa violation ng distribution ng relief (If he gives relief goods through the candidates for the barangay elections, he can also be charged with vote-buying,” said Brillantes.
Comelec has postponed the barangay elections in Bohol from Oct. 28 to late November, after considering the damage caused by the quake.
The Omnibus Election Code provides that in cases of calamities or disasters, the release of funds for relief efforts shall be turned over to and administered and disbursed by the PNRC.
On Thursday, President Benigno Aquino III defended Evasco, saying that proper coordination with the government is needed to ensure that no relief goods go to waste.
What is certain, though, according to Brillantes, is that candidates for barangay elections are prohibited from participating in the relief efforts. Those candidates who distribute the relief goods may be held liable for vote-buying.
Evasco, in the same GMA 7 interview last night, said he has yet to receive the order from Comelec and is willing to turn over the distribution of relief goods to the Red Cross.
He said, though, that for as long as the order of the Comelec is not there, he will go on giving the relief goods to his constituents.
The Visayas Ombudsman is planning to hold a “caravan of services” in several towns in Bohol in the third week of November.
Various government agencies will provide the basic services such as social, education and health, to the residents of Bohol affected by earthquake. “There should be a convergence of efforts to serve the people,” Apostol said. (Sunnex)
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on October 26, 2013.