June 20, 2024

Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong is not clean, as he publicly projects himself to be, a member of the Lower House said.

Reacting over a speech that Magalong delivered on July 3 in Camp Crame where he lamented that portion of the pension of police officers and the military will be slashed to help pay the national debt, yet members of Congress cannot allocate a portion of their countrywide development fund for the same, Sagip Party-list Rep. Rodante Marcoleta said in an online broadcast and a subsequent privilege speech that the former should not give a blanket accusation against Congress.

Citing reports of the Commission on Audit, Marcoleta said the mayor of Baguio cannot claim that he runs a clean government when the COA reported adverse findings with how the local government spends public funds.

These findings, some of which involve the disallowed deposit of allocated funds in a time deposit account, unaccounted donations for the Covid-19 response, the recent change of project title for the construction of the Athletic Bowl youth center, and the delayed or non-implementation of projects since 2019, among others, have been reported in the recent issues of the Midland Courier.

Marcoleta added the mayor allowed illegal gambling to flourish in Baguio and even happens at an area located only a few meters away from City Hall.

“I do not believe that the mayor of Baguio has the moral integrity or the rectitude to cast the first stone,” Marcoleta said in his privilege speech last July 31.

Marcoleta said if the mayor is bent on helping the national government, Magalong should give up the “intelligence funds” allocated annually to the Office of the Mayor and whatever amount he come up with, Congress will match.

In a response posted in the vlog called “Politiko”, Magalong said the lawmaker must have felt alluded to and his tirades could have stemmed from an earlier congressional hearing regarding the management impasse at the Benguet Electric Cooperative. The mayor said Marcoleta supported the appointee of the National Electrification Administration, while he, in both his capacity as mayor and member-consumer, backed the board of directors-appointed manager.

It was during the hearing that the mayor asked Congress not to interfere with local affairs.

Magalong said the lawmaker could have been slighted by this statement but he maintained that he is treading the straight path in governance and declared he will resign and will immediately commit himself in jail if proven that he pocketed the millions of funds mentioned by Marcoleta citing the COA.

“I’m willing to give up my perks as a mayor for the sake of doing what is right,” Magalong said.

The mayor further admitted the presence of illegal gambling but said that he is not benefitting from it.

He added the intelligence funds go directly to the police, not to him.

Asked to comment about Marcoleta’s privilege speech, Magalong has declined.

In an interview posted by the City Public Information Office, the mayor said he has answered Marcoleta’s allegations and commenting on the privilege speech will only result in both them exchanging endless allegations.

The mayor said he sees a positive side to Marcoleta’s speech saying the lawmaker could also be a crusader for a graft-free government such as him.

Marcoleta, a known supporter of former President Rodrigo Duterte, is one of the 73 lawmakers who voted against the renewal of franchise of ABS-CBN andblocked the partnership between ABS-CBN and TV5.

He is also known as one of the lawmakers who pushed for a P1,000 budget for the Commission on Human Rights in 2018, one of those who voted against the reimposition of the death penalty, voted in favor of free tuition in college and the Reproductive Health Bill, and co-authored the bill on free basic medicine services for Filipinos and the Magna Carta for the Poor. – Rimaliza A. Opiña