AN impromptu mediation conference yesterday ended the row between two officials over who should fix R. Colina St. in Mandaue City.

Notably, the obvious question-–why Rep. Nerissa Soon-Ruiz and Mandaue Mayor Jonas Cortes fought over R. Colina St. when there are plenty of bad roads to go around-–was ignored.

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“I couldn’t’ ask that because I wanted them to settle the issue,” said Assistant Ombudsman Virginia Santiago after the hour-long conference.

“What is important is service to the public, regardless of what the motives behind it are,” she said.

On that, Santiago successfully got the two officials to shake hands in the presence of press photographers, cameramen, reporters and kibitzers-–supporters from both camps—that filled her office.

By shaking hands, the two agreed, in principle, to fix the 120-meter road together, the finer points left to be discussed later.

“It’s a victory for Mandaue-hanons,” said Cortes, adding that residents there will get two concreted roads—the contested R. Colina St. and its extension from S.B. Cabahug to P. Burgos St.

“We are happy that our projects will proceed despite some slight delays despite some forceful attempts to stop them. This is for the good of Man-dauehanons,” Ruiz said.

Engineers from the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and their counterparts from the Mandaue City Engineer’s Office have set a meeting to iron out the technical stuff.

The DPWH is undertaking the repair for Ruiz while the Mandaue engineering office is undertaking the repair for the city government.

Santiago admitted though that Ruiz wasn’t even invited to the conference that was originally called to discuss Cortes’s complaint against the DPWH, represented by Atty. Augustinito Hermoso, for destroying the existing R. Colina St. earlier this week.

Ruiz arrived at the anti-graft office with her counsel sometime during lunch break and waited for work to resume.

Cortes, who arrived with City Administrator Briccio Boholst and several engineers, was initially caught by surprise.

Santiago said she decided to make the best out of the presence of the two and turned what should have been a preliminary conference into a mediation session.

In an interview with reporters outside Santiago’s office after the conference, Ruiz sniped at Cortes once more.

She said things wouldn’t have gotten this far off had the mayor replied to a letter she wrote last Oct. 8, 2009, informing him of the road repair, which was to be financed by her pork barrel funds.

Ruiz’s chief of staff, Atty. Gonzalo Malig-on, said the mayor instead had his city engineer, Antonio Sanchez, write to DPWH district engineer Mario Montejo last Nov. 25, 2009.

“But by that time, the project was already bid out and awarded to a contractor,” he said.

Cortes, interviewed separately, said he would have welcomed the repair had he not have a planned project in the very same area, one that went beyond asphalting a road.

During the conference with Santiago, he insisted that Ruiz’s camp would have known of his intent had they, in compliance with the provisions of the Local Government Code, coordinated with his office instead of just informing him of her plans through a latter.

He cited another Ruiz project-–the P887,000 cementing of the Camino Vicinal in Barangay Tingub.

He stressed that since the congresswoman did not coordinate with City Hall, the concrete was poured on an adjacent private lot instead.

Cortes, in an interview, indicated his intent to stick with the agreement before Santiago, adding that his only requirement is that Mandaue City handles that segment of the road the DPWH contractor already destroyed.

The DPWH, he said can do the opposite end, adding that the road stretches 120 meters and the money the Mandaue City Hall has been able to secure isn’t enough for the whole stretch anyway.

Malig-on, in a talk with reporters, wondered why Cortes is specifically after being the one responsible for the segment the DPWH already worked on.

Cortes, during the mediation conference, explained however that they have a specific intent for the segment. Other than a road, they want to put a diversion lane of sorts for vehicles unloading passengers.

The area around this lane, he explained, can be developed further into a commercial area, something that cannot be done if the DPWH takes charge of the segment.

Meanwhile, the Special Weapons and Tactics (Swat) is mainly deployed to respond to alarms where the subjects are armed, Police Regional Office (PRO) 7 Director Lani-o Nerez said.

However, the case involving the Mandaue City Police Office (MCPO) Swat was a decision arrived at by City Director Orlando Ualat because there were no other personnel available to respond to the call for assistance.

Members of the Swat were sent to aid Cortes in stopping Ruiz’s project on R. Colina St.

“To be strict about it, Swat is called upon for alarms involving armed persons. But in that situation, they were the only ones available,” Nerez explained.

He said they also did not want to risk anybody getting hurt, if they did not respond to the call for help.

For his part, Ualat explained that it was not an entire Swat team that was sent to the area but only two men.

He said that the request for assistance from the Mayor’s Office did not specify Swat personnel.

Ualat explained that the unit tasked to respond to calls for assistance is the Mobile Patrol Group.

The MPG personnel were not available as they were bringing arrested persons to the prosecutor’s office for case filing, Ualat said. He “had no choice” but to deploy two men from the Swat. (KNR/OCP/MEA)