CEBU City Councilor Prisca Niña O. Mabatid said (1) she does not personally profit from the selling of dressed chickens, rice, and other goods; (2) it is not a "side business" but a "livelihood program" she started in the 2019 election and has continued during the pandemic; (3) her City Hall staff merely "supervises" distribution of the goods; people from her private business do the work; and (4) she uses her own vehicles in the marketing.
Mabatid made the assertions Monday, September 21, following the reported filing of an 11-page complaint by one Roldan de los Reyes, a former employee of the councilor, with the office of the Visayas deputy ombudsman, alleging graft and corrupt practices.
Roldan claimed Mabatid, "using her influence as a public official," ordered "all her staff to work for several 'side businesses.'" She allegedly threatened to withhold her employees' salary and demanded the resignation of those who would refuse.
Donation or what?
Mabatid told a news media outlet that she "merely donated" and did not sell the dressed chickens. She was "donating them to beneficiaries so they could start their own business." She gave a slightly different explanation to Bzzzzz in a phone interview.
The variation: the councilor said she would buy the supplies, her constituents would sell them and keep the profit, with her getting back only the "puhonan" (capital) to be used for new purchases. They get the supplies in the morning and they pay in the afternoon. The money circulates, with the profit going to the individual retailers, or so Mabatid says. She calls it a "coop supermarket."
De los Reyes mentioned in his complaint butane canisters and face shields. Mabatid earlier told media she has not been distributing butane yet. And the face shields? She gave them away for free, she said.
He said, she said
So far, it's a case of "he said, she said." The councilor has not yet received her copy of the complaint, she told Bzzzzz, but she is ready with receipts and testimony of witnesses that it is "not a side business but a livelihood, public service program."
She hired de los Reyes last year, Mabatid said, on the prodding of a former city councilor and over the caution of a colleague in Partido Barug that the would-be appointee could be a trouble-maker.
She said the advice turned out to be right as de los Reyes "did not cooperate" on her "livelihood program," would talk back, and had an alleged drinking problem. Published explanation of the former employee: he was fired because he didn't follow the boss's orders.
Did she give him due process, such as asking the employee to explain and giving him warnings in writing? No, the councilor said: de los Reyes was a "co-terminus employee."
The "livelihood program" may help the constituents during the pandemic but it is obviously also a campaign gimmick. She admitted it is carried over from the 2019 election campaign. The pick-up vehicle that she said is being used for distributing the supplies to be sold still carries the "Mabatid" propaganda on its sides.
A video clip showing the pickup drawing people at a neighborhood is circulated in social media. She said it is her own vehicle. The City Hall-issued car is a Fortuner, she said, which is "not suitable" for deliveries. Besides, she told Bzzzzz, she has many vehicles that she privately owns.
Offered the slot
Is it true she may run for the north district House seat in 2022 and all her activity is a preparation for that? "Yes," she said, without sounding hesitant or coy. A high government official, whom she named, offered her the slot. And her answer to the offer? "Yes," Mabatid said.
Niña Mabatid, running under Barug/PDP-Laban, placed #2 in the Cebu City north 2019 elections, with 113,908 votes. She was one of the two from Barug/PDP-Laban who survived the BOPK juggernaut of six-two, Councilor Raymond Garcia being the other survivor, at #8 with 101,578 (per Halalan 2019 figures).
She is probably the only Cebu City councilor engaged in activities to help the poor during the plague -- and braving the high risk of infection -- but it appears, by her admission, that they are also aimed to win the affection of voters in the next election. Well, a City Hall watcher quipped, what's wrong with hitting two birds with one stone?
The political angle in the new controversy may explain "the malicious intent" in the complaint. Mabatid said she suspects two political personalities, whom she also named, are behind de los Reyes. The same guys, she said, were also responsible for the early attacks against her.
Tell us about it.