ABOUT 35 waste pickers of Barangay Felisa, Bacolod, have withdrawn from their group project of purchasing a dump truck for a hauling business that is supposed to be financed by their loan of P500,000 from the City Government through the Department of Social Services and Development (DSSD).

The 35 complainants led a press conference Tuesday at the Felisa barangay hall, assisted by barangay captain Mona Dia Jardin, to air their complaints.

They were part of the 50 Felisa waste pickers who were made to avail themselves of a group loan of P500,000 or P10,000 for each member.

The complainants claimed that Ma. Fe Tresfuentes, executive assistant for Solid Waste Management of the City Government, facilitated their project proposal last December to avail themselves of a loan originally for trading purposes, not hauling.

Last September 12, when they claimed their P10,000 loan at the People’s House, only P1,000 each was released to them.

Tresfuentes reportedly told them their project now would be hauling, not trading, and that their loan will be used to purchase a dump truck as they will engage in a business of hauling garbage and other waste materials.

Thus, she said, their P9,000 each or a total of P450,000 is being kept by DSSD until such time they are able to decide on the proposed purchase of dump truck whether it will be a brand new or a second-hand unit.

However, the 35 complainants said they have changed their mind and they want to get the remaining P9,000 each so that they can manage their own choice of business.

Jardin said Tresfuentes, also a resident and former kagawad of Felisa, had facilitated the loan under the Self-Employment Assistance-Kaunlaran (SEA-K).

Sensing irregularities, the residents went to Jardin last Saturday to complain. Jardin said she called Tresfuentes and the complainants to a meeting the following day, Sunday.

The meeting was not able to resolve the problem, prompting Jardin and the residents to call for a press conference yesterday.

Estrebor, one of the complainants, said they are already poor and the city government made them even poorer by taking their P9,000 and worse, be made to pay for it as a loan. They have to pay for it for P833 per month for 12 months, she said in tears.

The Felisa barangay captain stressed they will wait until Friday for Tresfuentes or DSSD head Pacita Tero to return the money or they will be forced to seek other legal measures to compel both of them to do so.

They are planning to seek audience with the City Council during the session today, September 23. 

They also plan to file charges against Tresfuentes and the City Government of Bacolod for alleged malversation of public funds, qualified theft, and graft and corruption.

Meanwhile, Tresfuentes said that since the residents have changed their mind about the project, they can go to the DSSD so that they can be assisted on what to do.

If they want an individual project, then they should inform the DSSD of their individual plans so that a solution can be arrived at, rather than them complaining, she added.

The money is with the DSSD, she said. She denied taking advantage of the money or the group. The City Government just wanted to help them find other means of livelihood, she added.