“Public officials in city hall are up for re-election next year.”
In December 2020, the Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) of Barangay Biñan in Biñan City, Laguna, filed a petition for mandamus against the sangguniang barangay (barangay council) of Barangay Biñan and its treasurer. It was lodged with Branch 153 of the Biñan City Regional Trial Court.
The SK petitioned the court to order the barangay council and its treasurer to release the public funds the SK is entitled to under the Sangguniang Kabataan Reform Act of 2015. Ever since the SK assumed office in July 2018, the council and the treasurer did not remit to the SK the funds that are legally due them.
Despite repeated demands for two and half years, the barangay council and its treasurer foolishly refused to remit to the SK the funds legally due the latter.
Unable to withstand the non-feasance of the barangay council and its treasurer any further, the SK filed the petition for mandamus.
At the time the petition was filed in court, the punong barangay (barangay captain) was Reingel Pelaez, and the barangay treasurer was Joel Neil R. Trinidad.
During the first several months after the petition was filed in court, most members of the barangay council and the treasurer himself belittled the petition, particularly after officials of Biñan City assured them that the petition will not prosper. It appears that these recalcitrant barangay officials were advised by the powers-that-be in city hall to just ignore the case.
In the interest of fairness, two barangay councilors, Joel Aviso and Daniel Vito, were in favor of releasing the funds legally due the SK, but they were outnumbered by the others, namely, Punong Barangay Pelaez and Councilors Rudy Ella, Ricardo Tolentino, Jr., Narlito Cambal, Josephine Deveza and Reynaldo Bonifacio.
The chairman of the SK, who is an ex officio member of the barangay council, was almost always excluded from the meetings of the council when the SK fund was discussed.
As expected, the barangay council, as a collective entity, was unable to offer any plausible excuse to the court as to why all the funds legally due the SK were never remitted.
The exception was Kagawad Aviso, who manifested to the court that he agrees with the SK.
When the news media started revealing the fund mess of Barangay Biñan and the seemingly nonchalant attitude displayed by government officials in city hall, the political situation changed. Punong Barangay Pelaez and the barangay treasurer were forced to resign. Pelaez was replaced by Kagawad Ella. The current treasurer is Humberto Gonzaga, Jr.
The court eventually granted the petition for mandamus. In a decision dated October 24, 2021 and written by Presiding Judge Vernard V. Quijano, the court ordered the barangay council to remit to the SK all of the funds legally due the latter. In particular, the court ordered the council to immediately remit the more than P3-million pesos already due the SK.
With this welcome development, the SK is considering the option of filing criminal and administrative charges against Pelaez, and the members and officers of the barangay council, including those who resigned, who were involved in the non-remittance of the SK funds.
Meanwhile, Kagawad Vito, one of the two barangay councilors who sided with the SK, requested the barangay council and the barangay secretary, Enrico Santos, for copies of pertinent barangay documents relating to specific expenditures, including certain alleged “donations” given by the barangay to private entities.
Vito also asked for copies of the minutes of past meetings of the council, particularly the meetings held without due notice given to him, to Kagawad Aviso, and to the SK chairman as ex officio member of the council.
After giving Vito the run-around, Santos eventually told Vito that the barangay documents he wants are with the barangay records officer at the Biñan City Hall. In other words, Santos has no barangay documents in his custody.
As far as Vito is concerned, that excuse tendered by Santos is very flimsy, considering that under the Local Government Code, Santos, being the barangay secretary, has to keep a file of all documents relating to the official transactions of the barangay council.
The failure of the barangay secretary to maintain official records of the barangay council makes him and his cohorts in the council liable for the crime of, inter alia, infidelity in the custody of public documents punished under the Revised Penal Code, and under the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
In fact, several concerned citizens of Barangay Biñan are contemplating filing administrative and criminal cases against the barangay recalcitrants anytime soon.
Elective public officials in city hall are up for re-election next year. It is almost certain that this large scale fund mess involving their underlings in Barangay Biñan will be an election issue.
Abangan ang susunod na kabanata.