By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA — The village of Bagong Silangan in Quezon City made it to the news a few years ago when Ondoy flooded its low-lying area and killed many in just a few hours. The disaster resulted in the massive evacuation of residents and later, their relocation to other areas. For weeks, its village hall and covered court housed some of the affected families torn between returning to their washed-out community or allowing themselves to be relocated far from the village.
Nowadays, a different picket is set up at the covered court. This time, it is the employees themselves of the village council who are maintaining a picket. Some of them joined the March 8 Women’s Day commemoration in LiwasangBonifacio in Manila, and the march to Mendiola.
Angelito Belmi, 45, is all-around head maintenance of the village and union leader of the village employees. He said their barangay or village has 230 to 250 employees, of which a hundred are “not in plantilla” and are deemed as contractual workers despite having been employed for years already in the barangay.
Why are they picketing their village hall? The long-time employees told Bulatlat.com they have not regularly received their pay since January this year. Last month, they should have received their pay for January, as the required approval and signatures of the village council had been accomplished. But apparently, until now, they have yet to receive it.
The immediate cause of the delay in their pay is a disagreement between local leaders that is still festering within their village council. The employees said their pay should not have been affected by that. But as of now, because of that disagreement between their local officials, the 2013 budget of the village including that for salaries of employees is still awaiting needed signatures of Bgy. Silangan councilors.
Questionable dealings of local officials
According to Belmi, the problem stems from last year’s suspension of their village captain, Crisell Beltran. She was suspended for two months in September and October last year. During those months, the acting captain, OIC Edith Ocampo, and the village council, rented out parts of the village properties, but they did not have receipts to show for it.
When Beltran returned to work, she reportedly asked for the receipts. The employees told Bulatlat.com a lot of money had poured in while she was on suspension, but there were allegedly no receipts. Beltran claimed that when she was in office, there are always receipts.
Beltran had been suspended allegedly because she received money from a contractor. Belmi said they were told Beltran had returned the money untouched when the project did not push through and as such no longer needed it. But Beltran was still suspended. And now, she and council members seem to be wrangling among themselves.
Unfortunately, for the more than 230 to 250 village employees, which include those in charge of the village’s peace and order, the barangay health workers, the street sweepers and the barangay social workers (their pay ranges from P1,200 to P2,200 or $29 to $56), they have not been receiving their pay. Belmi said they need the village’s finance committee signature approving the release of their pay. The budget is already there, he said.
“If the council has a conflict among themselves, why must the employees suffer?” Belmi asked. With him at the March 8 protest in Liwasang Bonifacio were more than 30 other BagongSilangan village employees.
The employees said they would continue to maintain their picket center in front of the Barangay hall beside the Bagong Silangan covered court. Belmi said many of them are still performing their jobs, though some are set back by lack of funds.