By JOHN RIZLE L. SALIGUMBA
Davao Today

DAVAO CITY — The city council wants to find out what happened to the 30-million peso calamity fund provided to eight villages in Paquibato District.

Councilor Melchor Quitain said in a privilege speech on Tuesday’s session, that the city’s “executive branch” only submitted 2 out of 30 monthly reports on this matter.

The 30 million peso-calamity fund was released on 2011 after a state of calamity was declared in Paquibato district following a massive rat infestation destroyed crops consisting mostly of cassava, the staple food of farmers.

“More than 30 months to be exact have passed but only two reports were submitted; the first on April 29, 2011 and the 2nd on August 31, 2012,” said Quitain.

Quitain cited a February 2011 resolution that declared such state in barangays  in Paquibato namely Salapawan, Lumiad, Colosas, Tapak, Mapula, Paradise Embac, Fatima, Pandaitan in a state of calamity due to rat infestation.

Councilor Bonifacio Militar also reacted to the two reports. “There are only 23 or 22 million reported, what about the other balance?” asks Militar.

Quitain said the balance “which was not utilized, has been diverted back to the general fund or I think back to the calamity fund.”

The councilor said since two years have passed, “it’s time that we put an end to this because if there is no more calamity, then it is our duty to lift the declaration of the state of calamity and we can only do that if we will be given the final report regarding the expenses incurred and also the true state of affairs in these eight barangays.”

The executive branch Quitain referred to involves the  City Social Services and Development Office (CSSDO), the City Veterinarian Office and the City Health Office led by the City Agriculturist Office (CAO).

The Council has given the agencies 30 days to submit the report.

Councilor Marissa Salvador-Abella said that village captains should be present in the Council investigation, but Quitain said inviting too many people would not be necessary, as he wants to determine if the barangays are still in a state of calamity.

“It might take too long. The more people in a committee hearing, the more confusing it might become,” Quitain said.

The investigation is welcomed by Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, who picketed the agriculture office on allegations that the fund became a ‘balunan’ (source) of corruption.

KMP spokesperson Pedro Arnado said farmers in Paquibato farmers received only five kilos of rice, two packs of noodles and two cans of sardines.

During a picket by the farmers in City Hall in 2011, CAO Head Leo Avila admitted to them he did not know where the funds went.

“Gilitok ni Leo Avila niadtong panahon sa picket nga niatubang siya sa mga mag-uuma.  Mao nga moingon mi nga kini nahimong balunan sa kurapsyon (Leo Avila did not say a word when he faced the farmers during the picket. That made us think that the funds were suspiciously targeted for corruption),”  Arnado recalled.

(John Rizle L. Saligumba, davaotoday.com)

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