ILOILO City – The city treasurer has no power to withhold salaries already certified by the city budget officer, city accountant and the head of the department or office, according to the City Legal Office (CLO), citing Article 344 of the Local Government Code. City Treasurer Jinny Hermano may thus be charged with insubordination, said Mayor Jose Espinosa III.
In a legal opinion issued following Hermano’s refusal to sign the payroll of several job hires, CLO chief Atty. Ruledo D. Dele Cruz stressed that the power of the city treasurer is merely limited to certifying the availability of funds.
Hermano said, among other reasons, that certain city government offices’ number of job hires already exceeded their monthly allocation, thus his refusal to sign their payroll.
But according to the CLO, “absence of solid proof, the treasurer cannot by his opinion and discretion refuse the release of salaries of job hires on the claim that there is no backup fund.”
The CLO also dismissed as “clearly absurd” Hermano’s interpretation of a Local Government Code (Republic Act 7160) provision related to the current job hire payroll controversy.
Hermano refused to invoke the “signing with objection” (in case of overspending and/or misappropriation of government funds) for the release of the job hires’ salaries under Section 342 of Republic Act 7160; he said it won’t relieve him of liability and/or excuse him from being charged criminally and administratively for mismanagement of public funds.
He stressed he is duty bound to provide cash backup only to those within the programs/projects’ monthly allocation.
“Such claim of no backup fund is baseless in the absence of proof to such,” the CLO stressed.
Defiance won’t do Hermano any good, warned Espinosa.
“I will have to do some legal action. Kon sa corporation code na, ultra vires, you are going beyond your function,” said the mayor, a lawyer.
Hermano may be charged with insubordination, he added.
“Our legal office already issued an opinion. It is valid. It guides executive actions. Kon maghambal ang legal office that the city can pay, it should be complied. The city treasurer is not above the law,” said Espinosa.
Meanwhile, the Internal Audit Service (IAS) Office reported to Espinosa that the city government has enough funds to pay job hire employees.
Collection for the month of January to February far exceeded the disbursement covering the period January to March 14, 2019, read part of the report prepared by IAS chief Atty. Joan Montaño-Pallada.
Last week, Espinosa issued Memorandum Order No. 56 ordering IAS to conduct an audit and investigation of the tax collections of the City Treasurer’s Office.
It was also directed to investigate the delay in the processing of papers and claims at the City Treasurer’s Office.
Computation showed that the city has a cash balance available for operation amounting to P388.704 million, according to IAS.
Also, the city government has time deposits totaling P519,123,162.01 in two banks.
“It (the money) has a maturity period of 91-92 days and can be pre-terminated in case of necessity. This is a cash backup that is readily available to the local government unit,” according to Montaño-Pallada.
Also, the IAS head noted, the city government has P1.5 billion and P18.071 million in two more banks.
Hermano, however, remained unmoved.
“Ang basehan sang akon opisina nga indi magbayad kay sobra sa allocation. Kun lapaw sa appropriation sa reenacted budget, wala basis ang opisina sa pagbayad sang sobra,” he said.
The city government is currently operating on a reenacted 2018 budget.
Assuming that the city government has money, Hermano added, it is not intended for excess job hires.
He played a possible administrative case for insubordination.
“Wala bala deretso ang city treasurer nga indi magsunod kun nakita niya nga improper ukon illegal ang sugo,” he asked.
Hermano denied his action was motivated by politics.
“I am just doing my job. Wala sang pulitika, 100 percent. I am just standing by my duty nga protektahan ang pondo sang banwa, amo man lang na akon,” he stressed.
Espinosa was suspicious.
“I don’t know why it has come to this. I hope nobody is orchestrating this, nga pulitika. Kontraha niyo lang si Joe III pero ang sweldo sang empleyado kag naobrahan na, give it to them kay ginahulat na sang ila pamilya,” said the mayor.
Section 470 (b) of the Local Government Code states that “the treasurer shall be under the administrative supervision of the governor or mayor, as the case may be, to whom he shall report regularly on the tax collection efforts in the local government unit.”
Hermano complained to the police last week of having received threats from unpaid city government job hires.
Around seven job hires under the Task Force on Morals and Values Formation went to his office and inquired why their January and February payrolls were returned to the city mayor’s office.
According to Hermano, one of the job hires claimed being a drug surrenderee and had a group who could “take down” anyone.
He believed it was a threat.
Hermano, however, remained firm in his decision not to sign the job hires’ payroll.
“I told them indi ako magbayad bangod nagsobra sa monthly allocation ang ila nga payroll,” explained Hermano.
In fact, he added, the City Treasurer’s Office returned 19 more payrolls from various city hall offices for the same reason.
A source told Panay News 145 job hires were unpaid in January and 87 in February.
“Indi kita pwede kadugang sang pundo kon maubos. Yes, ginpreparahan ta sang monthly allocation ang mga offices para ma-sustain naton ang programs from January to December. But anything nga masobra dira I will not allow nga bayran,” said Hermano./PN