Laoag City officials no show at prov’l board hearing on coop deal

LAOAG CITY — Laoag Mayor Chevylle Fariñas and five other city officials failed to show up at a joint committee hearing that the Sangguniang Panlalawigan (Provincial Board) set on Tuesday to clarify alleged questionable transactions between the city government and one of the fastest growing cooperatives in Ilocos Norte province.

In a Sept. 3 letter addressed to Ilocos Norte Vice Governor Eugenio Angelo Marcos Barba, which was received at the Sangguniang Panlalawigan (SP) Office on Tuesday afternoon, Fariñas along with the City Legal Officer Marlon Wayne Manuel, City Accountant Edgar Pascual, SP Member Shirley Ong Sin, Secretary to the Sanggunian Enrico Aurelio, and Acting City Treasurer Diomedes Gayban said they could not attend the hearing due to a similar investigation the Sangguniang Panlungsod (City Council) has set on September 6.

“We could not come to your joint committee hearing, as we will be attending a similar investigation of the Sangguniang Panlungsod,” the city officials said in the letter with their affixed signatures.

However, according to SP Member Vicentito Lazo, who called for the hearing in his capacity as chairperson of the committee on finance and appropriation, their reason is not acceptable because “Laoag City is a dependent component city.”

“Laoag City is under the jurisdiction of Ilocos Norte. The Sangguniang Panlalawigan covers 21 towns and two cities of the province. So, if the SP creates or amends a resolution or ordinance, it will encompass the City of Laoag and all other LGUs within its jurisdiction,” he said.

The controversy stemmed from the Commission on Audit’s (COA) annual audit reports for 2016 and 2017, where, Lazo reported, there are some “questionable transactions.”

“The COA can’t understand if these are real assets, as there are no itemized schedules and they can’t verify it,” he said referring to the transactions made by the city government with the Government of Laoag Employees Development Cooperative (GLEDCO).

To shed light on the issue, the Ilocos Norte board invited the city officials to explain, but only Laoag Vice Mayor Franklin Respicio showed up.

Another hearing was set next week, inviting the same officials to attend in aid of legislation.