DAVAO CITY (davaotoday.com) – Drainage maintenance chief Yusop Jimlani said the city has terminated the services of 174 employees following the Ombudsman’s order suspending him and three other city officials for demolishing a park named after House Speaker Prospero Nograles.
The Ombudsman suspended Jimlani, City Administrator Wendell Avisado and City Engineer Jose Gestuvio Jr. for six months without pay for demolishing the two million-peso Nograles park along Quezon Boulevard in October last year. Some people believe the suspension order, which came as a result of Duterte’s order demolishing Nograles’ park, is the latest twist to the perceived Nograles-Duterte political tiff for the 2010 elections.
A female staff told Davao Today that only few volunteers are left at the city’s drainage maintenance office to look after the equipment and documents.
Jimlani said the order (for the dismissal of the employees) only came from city “higher ups.” Jimlani’s assistant, Engr. Alexander Abing, took over the drainage chief’s function after Jimlani left his office on August 6.
City legal officer Melchor Quitain took over as city administrator while assistant city engineer Roland Reyes took over as city engineer.
Mayor Rodrigo Duterte told the media he will also leave his post after another administrative complaint for grave misconduct was also filed against him by Nograles.
But, Jimlani said he only received photocopies of the Ombudsman’s suspension order.
“(These photocopies) are like ‘scratch papers’ under the law,” he said. As respondents, he said, they are supposed to get the original copies.
Avisado, who went to Manila last month, also said he did not receive the original copies of the suspension order. He said photocopied documents cannot be used in legal matters. But the three officials imposed a ‘self-imposed suspension’ and decided to leave their offices.
“It’s clearly politics,” Jimlani said, referring to the political rivalry between Duterte, the Davao City mayor now on his last term and Nograles, the first district Congressman also on his last term in Congress but who has been perceived to be eyeing for mayor in the city in 2010.
In October 2008, Mayor Duterte ordered the demolition of the park named after Nograles. Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez issued the July 18 order this year declaring the demolition as illegal, suspending the three city officials.
Jimlani said the park covered one of the city’s major drainage canals. The canal had to be cleaned up for the water to pass through toward the Davao River. The City government blamed the clogged canals at Quezon Boulevard for the heavy flooding in the city in the previous year.
Jimlani even produced a study showing the drainage only had a remaining 1. 4 meter absorption level. If it will not be cleared by 2010, the canal will overflow, Jimlani insisted.
He said that after the demolition, the city had taken 180 cubic meters, or 42 truckloads of garbage out of the canal.
Jimlani cited a provision of Presidential Decree 1096, prohibiting the building of structures on waterways. Karlo Nograles, Nograles’ son and chief-of-staff, earlier said the destruction of the park was unnecessary because the barangay can clean it.
Jimlani said the city already had a hard time cleaning the canal. “It wasn’t just an ordinary canal. It needed a machine to clean up,” he said. He said his office had informed the Department of Public Works and Highways-XI two months before the demolition, contrary to what the Nograles’ camp claimed that the DPWH received the notification late. “What they were referring was the final notice,” Jimlani said. “The first notice was sent to DPWH-XI on July 27.”
He said he was only doing his job as drainage maintenance chief. He also claimed that the park was illegally constructed and lacked the necessary permits.
He cited chapter 3, sec 25-B, 26 and 27 of the Local Government Code of 1991 and Republic Act 7160 sec.2-C which said that national projects must be coordinated with the local government in planning and implementation.
“No one can stop me except the law,” he said, “I’m just doing my work.”
He believed that at least 25 percent of the flood problem of the city was solved after the park was demolished. Cleaning of city canals have practically stopped after the drainage workers were terminated.
Jimlani said Nograles has also put up another park along Roxas Boulevard which covered another drainage canal. The park lacked permit from the local government. He said his office was supposed to demolish this park, too, if he were not suspended.
At the city engineer’s office, it was still “business as usual” despite the suspension of Engr. Jose Gestuveo, Jr. In a Mindanao Daily Mirror report , Avisado said Nograles was using all his powers to harass them. He considered Nograles’ act as a ‘blatant, brazen and naked display of power and arrogance.’ Recently, the Court of Appeals (CA) had issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) to stop the suspension of the three city officials. (Grace S. Uddin/davaotoday.com)