HIS no-show at City Council sessions — over 120 per latest count— should not be viewed as absenteeism but “rendered services,” while the P49 million phone project fiasco -- his brainchild -- was bereft of irregularity and nothing but “misunderstanding.”

In those simplified explanations, Cagayan de Oro Vice Mayor Vicente Emano sought to downplay two of the most controversial issues hounding him one involving a botched project when he was still mayor, and the other centering his consistent nonappearance at the City Council sessions.

Acknowledging that that both issues -- on top of many others -- can hurt his comeback bid as mayor, Emano said it was “up to the people to decide if I will be fit to be loved and be supported.”

He added: “As mayor for nine years, all I did was to render services to the people and to the city; I didn’t enrich myself while in office.”

Critics, however, point to his alleged abuses in office as reason why he should not be voted back as mayor -- chief of which are his absences, a record two years of not presiding in sessions.

“He (Emano) finds it hard to perform the simple duty of presiding the session. Now he’s wooing our votes so that he can be elevated to the mayorship once more? For what?” said opposition Councilor Roger Abaday.

Councilor Abaday said Emano’s absenteeism reeks of political bossism, and said “this utter dereliction of duty will surely become an election issue.”

Emano has a different view of his unavailability at City Council sessions.

“Absenteeism is not the term I use for my absences; I would say service is the right word for it—service to the people,” he said.

The vice mayor said both his colleagues and critics at the City Council are aware that he has been making himself scarce at the City Council for a reason: His duty of serving the poor.

While his colleagues are in session, Emano said he is also “rendering service” of his own by meeting potential investors, attending the poor and inspecting the projects of the city.

He also performs official functions that are delegated to him by Mayor Constantino Jaraula, he said.

Emano also sought to put an end to the Scantel controversy, which has been dogging him since he was still mayor.

“I swear I’d die at this very instance if it’s true that I benefited from that Scantel project,” he stressed. “I never got a single centavo from that project, or for any project for that matter.”

On Wednesday, a former councilor laid the blame on the vice mayor for the mothballed rural telephone system, accusing the latter of failing vet the Manila-based Scantel properly before it was awarded a multi-million project.

Scantel failed to fully install the wireless telephone since it began working on the project seven years ago.

Ex-councilor Edgar Cabanlas, a longtime Emano ally-turned critic, said Emano and other public officials involved in the project should be investigated for the bungled Barangay Rural Telephone System.

In 2008, the National Telecommunications Commission found Scantel liable for implementing the telephone project without securing accreditation; illegal importation of telecommunications equipment; illegal installation of radio communication devices; illegal operation of radio communication equipments, among others. (NJM/DVA)