Lapu councilors get death threats ‘after scrutinizing City’s budget’

·4 min read

TWO city councilors in Lapu-Lapu City claim to have received death threats after they scrutinized the City's budget allocation and liquidation reports of the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) funds used in the year 2021.

Councilors Flaviano “Bobit” Hiyas Jr. and Michael Dignos, who belong to the opposition bloc, said in a press conference Monday, Jan. 24, 2022, that the threat sent through text messages possibly came from the administration.

"Wala tay laing mapasanginlan ani nga death threat. Posible ra gyud ni nga gikan sa administrasyon," said Hiyas. (There’s no one else we could blame for these death threats. The only possibility is that these came from the administration.)

According to Hiyas, he received the first death threat on Sept. 15, 2021, during the discussion of the city's Supplemental Budget 3 that tackled the standardization of the amount for the burial assistance in the city.

The second threat came after he questioned the whereabouts of the donations given by the national government and private individuals for the victims of Typhoon Odette (Rai), said Hiyas.

Typhoon Odette hit Cebu last Dec. 16.

Hiyas holds the chairmanship of the City Council's committee on finance while Dignos is the chairman of the committee on infrastructure.

The councilor added that based on the Commission on Audit's report, the City released P138 million for the purchase of 52,000 sacks of rice, but there was no document that could show the names of the recipients.

The report also included the procurement of P200 million worth of Covid-related items that did not contain any supporting documents to prove the legality of the transaction, said Hiyas.

Hiyas further stated that they were conducting the scrutiny to make sure that the City will not again incur a deficit like what happened in the year 2020 when it was left with a P148 million deficit.

Dignos, who also received threats, said this is the first time in the city that an incumbent councilor received a death threat.

Hiyas and Dignos, both lawyers, agreed that the rejection of Mayor Junard “Ahong” Chan's proposed Lapu-Lapu Expressway (LLEX) could also be a possible reason for the threats against their lives.

After questioning some of its provisions, including the proponent’s 50-year exemption from business, community and real property taxes, and the City’s measly one percent revenue share, the Lapu-Lapu City Council’s opposition bloc thumbed down the proposed joint venture agreement for the P24.8 billion LLEX last Dec. 14, saying the project also would not solve the traffic problem in the city as alleged by Chan when the Cebu-Cordova Link Expressway opens this year.

"Kaning ingon ani nga pamaagi, dili man ni pamaagi sa tinud-anay nga Oponganon kay ang tinud-anay nga Oponganon kahibalo mo sabot, kahibalo pud mo reklamo, pero never gyud nang maghulga-hulga hilabi na sa mga tao nga naa sa hingtungdan," said Dignos Monday.

[This is not the way of a true Oponganon (Lapu-Lapu City native) because the true Oponganon can understand and knows how to complain, but never resorts to threats, especially against persons in authority.]

The threat has been reported to the Philippine National Police and other law enforcement authorities for tracing of the exact source of the messages, said Dignos.

Josie Hayashi, who is running for a seat in the city council under the political party of Chan's rival, Rep. Paz Radaza, also received a threat before the filing of her certificate of candidacy last October.

Hayashi ran for city councilor in the 2019 election under the slate of Chan but did not win. The mayor then appointed her president of the women's organization in the city.

According to Hayashi, the threat was supposed to keep her indoors so that she could not convene her supporters and members of her organization.

In an interview, however, Mayor Chan dismissed the allegation that he is behind the death threats, called it black propaganda to discredit the efforts and programs of his government.

Chan said he is busy working for the relief efforts of the city and has no time for such accusations.

"Upat ko ka adlaw walay tulog, wala koy panahon ana. Ang ako trabaho; ang ila mag sige silag pangunay og daot," said Chan. (I haven’t had sleep for four days. I don’t have time for that. All I do is work while all they do is vilify me.)

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