By EDWIN IYO, SHIELA MAE
BUTLIG with LITO RULONA and NITZ ARANCON
THE tables have been turned on provincial board member Fredrick Khu even as he admitted that he based his allegations on the existence of ghost employees in Misamis Oriental’s legislature on mere gossip.
Now, the burden of proof is on Khu’s shoulders. Vice Gov. Jose Mari Pelaez and other members of the provincial board challenged Khu to show even an iota of evidence that the provincial legislative body has been spending money for salaries of non-existing workers.
The provincial board released a strongly worded collective statement over the weekend, calling Khu’s allegations as “malicious” and “misplaced” that “disparages the integrity of the members of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan as an institution.”
“We urge those imputing malice in the SP [Sangguniang Panlalawigan] to present evidence and not to rely on hearsay [or] gossip. Our people need and deserve to know only information based on facts and evidence,” reads part of the statement sent to this paper.
The statement was released by provincial secretary Ernesto Sotto Jr.. According to Louie Jarales, a staff member at the vice governor’s office, the release of the statement had the approval of provincial board members Jeremy Pelaez, Wayne Militante, Virgilia Dumadag, Vincent Pelaez , Leonardo Winstanley, Mercy Grace Acain, Nancy Madjos, Gerardo Sabal III, Boris Oliver Actub, and Lilian Gallogo.
Last week, Khu said he received a “report” about ghost employees, mostly “job-order” workers, even as he sought a provincial board investigation into the alleged anomaly.
He proposed that all the so-called “JOs” in the provincial board be summoned in order for capitol officials to validate and check on them.
Neither did Khu present any document or any piece of evidence to substantiate the allegation nor did he identify the source of his information.
Asked on Friday if he had evidence to substantiate the allegation, Khu admitted that the “report” he referred to was actually “hearsay.”
“Ang ato man lang gud katuyoan ani nga atong mapa-check ang maong isyu nga naa daw alleged ghost employees sa Sangguniang Panlalawigan… kung tinood ba o dili,” he said.
Khu was apologetic, saying his June 4 privilege speech was not intended to malign or hurt Pelaez and members of the provincial board. He maintained that there was no malice on his part and that his intention was just to protect the provincial board as a whole.
“Gusto lang nako maimbestiga aron mogawas ang kamatuoran kung tinood ba naa o walay mga ghost employee… Ako lang gyud nga mahatagan og igong katin-awan ug igong satisfaction sa naghatag report kanako… Kung dili tinood, mas maayo,” said Khu without identifying his supposed informant.
Vice Gov. Pelaez, for his part, said Khu should have checked his facts first before he delivered a privilege speech about a very serious matter that has the potentials of destroying reputations.
Pelaez said Khu’s allegation is not possible given the measures in place now, citing what he said were stringent documentary requirements and tedious goverment processes.
He said those hired or appointed in government now need to personally submit their birth certificates, Pagibig and Philhealth numbers, among others, for purposes of authentication.
Also, Pelaez said, the workers personally and directly collect their salaries from the Provincial Treasurer’s Office. He pointed out that the workers need to be physically present in order to sign vouchers and the payroll.
Provincial board member Sabal, for his part, agreed with Pelaez, saying Khu’s allegation is an impossibility because of the strict measures on the hiring of workers in government that have been in place since last year.
“Imposible man na nga ma-ghost employees kay gi-require na man gyud nga ang tanang government employee ipa-register sa Philhealth ug Pag-ibig. Dili ka man ma-register kon dili ka tinood nga empleyado sa gobyerno,” Sabal said.
But Sabal also revealed that members of the provincial board have been entitled to 10 staff members each. Three, he said, do office work while the other seven are tasked to do fieldwork.
The field workers supposedly do community relations, information dissemination, research, data gathering and coordination work, among others, in the barangays.
According to provincial secretary Sotto, the field workers and their outputs are regularly being monitored.
“They are assigned in different municipalities, barangays and communities in the province. Understandably, the province is big and this is the way to make public services and official presence felt in the grassroots by ordinary people. Their work assignments and accomplishments are also regularly monitored by assigned personnel,” Sotto explained.
Sotto, a lawyer by profession, said Khu’s controversial privilege speech “consisted only of his bare allegation… based on hearsay and not a personal knowledge.”
Meanwhile, former vice governor Julio Uy said Khu’s allegation did not come as a surprise to him given that employing ghost workers has long been a practice in the town, city and provincial governments.
Uy said those not regularly reporting for work and those exempted from the daily time record requirements are potential ghost employees.