Complaints filed against seven Negros Occidental officials and employees before the Office of the Deputy Ombudsman for the Visayas for the hiring of job order casuals from Bacolod City were called political harassment on Thursday, January 27.
The criminal and administrative complaints dated January 21 were filed by two Negros Occidental residents against Provincial Administrator Rayfrando Diaz, Provincial Budget Office OIC Gemma Flores, Provincial Accountant Annabelle Magalona, Provincial Human Resource Office OIC Felomino Gozon, Provincial Treasurer Amy Grace Bolivar, and Merly Frio and Jade Miraflores of the PHRO, documents released to the media showed.
Gov. Eugenio Jose Lacson said the provincial government will stand behind its department heads. “If we can trace it to politics, we will try to unmask the mastermind,” he said.
Jonathan Buyco of Talisay City and Lilibeth Carballo of Escalante City, in their complaints, said they attempted to seek employment at the provincial government but were told they need the strong endorsement of an influential politician to even be considered.
However, they learned that 23 Bacolod residents were hired as job order casuals sometime in October 2021.
This is despite the fact that such appropriation for personal services in the annual budget is intended for the employment of residents and taxpayers of Negros Occidental, they said.
They alleged that the appointees from Bacolod City are campaign operators of provincial consultant and Bacolod mayoral candidate Alfredo Benitez.
The claimed Benitez is known to have a very close friendship with Lacson and Diaz.
Diaz said the complaints are clearly political harassment and trial by publicity, as the lawyer of the complainants is the same one who represented those who filed cases for the disqualification of Benitez to run for mayor of Bacolod.
The people at the Bacolod City Government Center are putting malice into what the provincial government is doing, if they want to hire these people they can do so, he said.
“When we hire job order workers, we hire them for legitimate purposes,” Diaz said.
They are used for COVID-19 response work, repairs and other needs of the Capitol, he said.
He said the filing of cases is nothing new from the camp of the Bacolod mayor.
Diaz asked what law prohibits the provincial government from hiring Bacolod residents. If that is so a lot of permanent employees of the provincial government who are from Bacolod City would have to be removed from their jobs, Diaz said.
Does that also mean Bacolod City cannot hire employees from outside the city? he asked.
The 23 JOs questioned were hired as COVID-19 contact tracers under the Provincial Incident Management Team, he said.
During this pandemic, a lot of businesses have closed and people have been displaced so the provincial government is offering jobs to desirable and worthy workers, he added.*