After all the elective officials of Barangay Ermita were served their preventive suspension, there is no one authorized to sign any official documents, which could include the payroll of barangay employees.
Emma Joyevelyn Calvo, acting Department of Interior and Local Government director (DILG) for Cebu City, said signing of documents would only resume once President Duterte appoints a caretaker for Barangay Ermita.
The barangay officials led by Felicisimo “Imok” Rupinta were sued by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency for allegedly refusing to help them during the service of a search warrant on a “shabu tiangge” located a few meters away from the barangay hall.
Rupinta was busy clearing some stalls along Progreso St. yesterday morning when he was informed that DILG officials were waiting for him in his office.
Little did he know that the clearing operation of the 47 stalls of ambulant vendors located near the Carbon Public Market would be his last official function as he began to serve his suspension.
Calvo, accompanied by policemen, went to the barangay hall in Ermita about 9:40 a.m. yesterday to serve the six-month preventive suspension ordered by the Office of the Ombudsman on Rupinta and all seven barangay councilors.
About 25 minutes later, Rupinta arrived and received the suspension order.
Aside from Rupinta, suspended were Barangay Councilors Marky Rizaldy Miral, Antonieto Flores, Ryan Jay Rosas, Alio Tamundo, Domingo Ando, Maria Buanghug and Wilbert Flores. While he lamented that they were not afforded due process, Rupinta said he would heed the order and would use it as an opportunity to take a break and go on vacation.
“Now I can go on vacation. I haven’t gone on vacation. But before I leave, I will wait for the appointed caretaker so I could talk to her or him,” he said.
Rupinta said he was worried that the suspension of the barangay officials might affect the delivery of basic services in the barangay especially in terms of garbage collection and in their ongoing campaign to cleanse the village, particularly Sitio Bato, of illegal drugs.
“Dako akong pagtuo nga mobalik sad kadaghan ang mga namaligya ug drugas sa among barangay kung mawala ang mga officials. Every night mi magsige og storya, hangyo sa mga taw nga undang na,” he said.
(I strongly believe that the number of drug pushers in my barangay would go up with the absence of the barangay officials. Every night we talk to the residents, ask them to stop.)
Calvo said President Duterte had yet to appoint a caretaker for Ermita, an urban poor village which has been beset by problems of illegal drugs.
But she was confident that delivery of basic services in the village would not be affected despite the absence of a caretaker because the barangay employees would still go on with their functions.
The barangay secretary, she added, was still around to help run the village.
If problems arose, Calvo said the barangay secretary or employees could ask the help of the mayor’s office.
Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña said he is willing to assist Barangay Ermita while its officials are suspended. “If nothing happens, I have to take over myself. I have never been a barangay captain before,” he said. He said he will not allow the residents there to suffer if basic services are hampered due to the suspension of the officials.
“We will give it a day and see what happens. I never planned this. So I don’t know what I will do,” he said.
He said he would also consult the BO-PK councilors on what to do.
Meanwhile, Presidential Assistant for the Visayas Michael Dino said the new caretaker of barangay Ermita should be a “person whose integrity is beyond reproach.”
“Barangay affairs is non-partisan and is therefore insulated from politics. But if a politician wants to dip his hands on it, it must at least contribute to the development of the barangay and the well-being of the residents,” Dino said in a press statement.
Dino said that as much as possible, Rupinta’s replacement should come from the barangay.
“I don’t believe the barangay is already running out of good people who are professionals like doctors, lawyers, engineers, or businessmen who can better run Barangay Ermita,” said his PR. Dino said that he does not intend to intervene on the matter of Rupinta’s replacement because “there are other pressing matters that President Duterte wants me badly not only in Cebu but in the entire Visayas.” “My one-peso worth of advise, let the DILG handle that predicament,” he added.
Meanwhile, PDEA regional director Yogi Filemon Ruiz denied a political group was behind his filing of the case against Rupinta and the seven barangay councilors.
“Don’t put color to my action,” he said.
“Walay nagsugo nako nga file-an sila’g kaso. That case was filed because sa ilahang dereliction sa pag-assist sa PDEA. Simple as that (No one asked me to file a case against them. That case was filed because of their dereliction of duty in assisting PDEA),” Ruiz emphasized.
Osmeña also said he had nothing to do with the suspension of the Ermita barangay officials.
Ruiz said the suspension should serve as a warning that PDEA was serious in its campaign against drugs and that they should cooperate.
The PDEA raid yielded P800,000 worth of suspected shabu as well as the arrest of Richard Cañete, who was suspected to be the one maintaining the alleged “shabu tiangge.”
This was the first time that all the officials of a barangay had been suspended by the anti-graft office.
In an order dated Jan. 16, Deputy Ombudsman for the Visayas Paul Elmer Clemente temporarily stripped the barangay officials of their power until the administrative adjudication on the case was completed, “but not to exceed six months.”
He said the respondents’ continued stay in office might prejudice the case filed against them.
“There exists the possibility of an unhampered access and undue influence by respondents to any potential witness to the case by virtue of their respective positions and their proximity to the area where the anti-drug operation conducted by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency in Central Visayas took place,” he said.