Transfer of Dagupan City Hall imminent

DAGUPAN CITY — A new Dagupan city hall will soon rise in Barangay Pantal here in place of the present one located along A.B. Fernandez Avenue that was built sometime in 1925, following the approval of two ordinances by the Sangguniang Panlungsod (SP).

Approved by a vote of nine affirmative, one against and one abstention were Draft Ordinance No. 608-A providing for the transfer of city hall to a 2.4-hectare lot donated to the city by Kerwin Fernandez, brother of Mayor Belen Fernandez, and Draft Ordinance No. 608 B reclassifying the donated land from agricultural to non-agricultural and for institutional purposes.

Both measures were authored by Councilor Jose Netu Tamayo, a lawyer, but were opposed by minority floor leader Redford Erfe Mejia who issued a dissenting opinion to the majority report signed by six councilors and supported by three in the minority bloc.

The lone abstention came from Councilor Jeslito Seen who begged not to cast his vote on the measures because the one who donated the land to become the site of the new Dagupan City hall is his brother-in-law.

Vice Mayor Brian Lim, who as presiding officer should only steer the discussion and must not take sides, yielded the chair to Councilor Maybelyn Fernandez and delivered a privilege speech also opposing the measures, claiming the transfer of city hall smacks of graft and corruption since the donor of the proposed site of the city hall is the mayor’s brother.

Tamayo presented a copy of the legal opinion of the Commission on Audit (COA) through lawyer Robert de Ocampo stating that since the land is given free to the city by the mayor’s brother, no graft and corruption will be committed.

The Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) through Undersecretary Austere Panadero also opined that there is no conflict of interest even if the donor of the land is the mayor’s brother because if the value of land surrounding the donated property will soon increase, it will benefit not only the family of the donor but also the other property owners in the area, and in fact the whole of Dagupan because of the increased taxes that they will pay to the city.

Five members of the ruling majority including Tamayo backed the two measures. They are Councilors Maybelyn Fernandez, Lino Fernandez, Alvin Coquia, Dennis Canto and Marvin Fabia.

Three members of the minority crossed party line to support the two draft ordinances. They are Councilors Luis Samson Jr., Nicanor Aquino and Guillermo Vallejos, who issued their separate report on the matter, saying that they were joining the majority because the transfer of the city hall to a donated land “is for the good of the city and its people”.

Before the measures were presented in the plenary, the SP first conducted a public hearing and six cluster consultations to determine the pulse of the people.

The results of these public hearing and consultations indicated overwhelming support for the transfer of city hall to the donated land.

However, Councilor Erfe Mejia and Vice Mayor Lim joined hands in insisting the holding of a city-wide referendum on the matter even when the issues were already decided.

This drew instant retort from Councilor Tamayo who told the two that holding of a referendum is illegal as it violates Section 11 of the Local Government Code.