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Joe III, eight councilors may face raps over state of calamity declaration

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Seven members of the Iloilo City Council are taking legal steps against eight others for passing a resolution placing the city under a state of calamity despite the lack of quorum and insufficiency of grounds, Panay News reported.

In a letter addressed to Mayor Jose “Joe” Espinosa III and all department heads, Vice Mayor Jeffrey Ganzon and Councilors Julie Grace Baronda, Ely Estante, Armand Parcon, Jose Efrain Treñas, Irene Ong, and Leila Luntao said the eight councilors violated Republic Act (RA) 10121 for deliberately using false and inflated data in support of the request for funding.

Councilors Joshua Alim, Plaridel Nava, R Leone Gerochi, Eduardo Peñaredondo, Candice Tupas, Mandrie Malabor, Liezl Joy Salazar, and Lydon Acap participated in a special session called by Espinosa on April 26 that resulted in the declaration of a state of calamity.

The complainants said their colleagues passed a “substantially infirm and substantially lacking” resolution, alleging that 20 percent of the population were affected and in need of assistance; that there was widespread destruction of agricultural products and livestock; and that there was disruption of such lifelines as electricity, potable water and communications facilities, among others.

They cited the following grounds for opposing:

*Only four out of 180 barangays sought assistance from the city government for water. The four barangays had a population of only 28,211 or only 5.97 percent of the city’s total population of 472,491.

*Only 4.88 percent or 18.5 hectares out of 379 hectares of land were affected by water scarcity.

*There was no disruption of water system that could not be restored in 24 hours.

*The Metro Iloilo Water District had not found drastic shortage of water supply to warrant a declaration of a state of calamity.

*The Office of Civil Defense had not made a recommendation to declare the city under a stage of calamity.

*The City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, in its April 22, 2019 meeting, reported, “In the absence of documents from the barangays declaring a state of calamity, it becomes difficult and challenging to declare a state of calamity. Evidence such as barangay resolution is a strong support to this.”

The Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act prohibits deliberately using false and inflated data in support of request for emergency assistance.

The law also states that “violators shall be prosecuted and upon conviction shall suffer a fine not exceeding P500,000 or imprisonment, including perpetual disqualification from public office.”