TACLOBAN CITY- Former city mayor Alfred Romualdez dismissed as “unfortunate” an online report blaming him for the alleged misspending of financial assistance intended for survivors of supertyphoon “Yolanda” that hit Tacloban in 2013. Romualdez, who just stepped down from office last June 30 after serving nine years as mayor, said that the releases of funds coming from various government agencies for Tacloban were always transparent. “We reiterate that the city government of Tacloban has always and still continue to observe the standards of transparency and accountability over its funds including the Yolanda rehabilitation funds,” Romualdez said in a press statement. “Ang malungkot pa po dito ay ang sinasabi pa ng Rappler ay kung hindi raw naming naiparating at naipararamdam ang ibinigay na pera para sa aming mga tao kasi winaldas daw ng city government,” the former mayor said. Romualdez was reacting to an earlier story that appeared at Rappler, an online news service, claiming that close to P1 billion intended for Yolanda survivors were “misspent” during the time of Romualdez.
The Rappler report used a finding of the Commission on Audit (COA) stating, among others, that the alleged irregularities involved P907.86 million intended for infrastructure, aquaculture and emergency shelter assistance. The Kanhuraw Media Bureau, the information center of the city government, described the story as “manufactured.” “The entire report is a manufactured piece of narrative by the very offices that should have given and handled those funds, namely, the Department of Interior and Local Government, Department of Social Welfare and Development and Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources which are actually being currently investigated and are now trying to put the blame on the Tacloban city government,” the one-page statement said.
Former mayor Romualdez insisted that the funds received by the city went to the intended beneficiaries, particularly on the shelter assistance. He stressed that it was the national government, through the DSWD that set the guidelines as who could receive the shelter assistance. “Ang masakit pa po dito, ang tagal na nga bago pa nagrelease ng pondo para sa mga beneficiaries na mga biktima ng Yolanda sa Tacloban na umabot ng mahigit sa isang taon pa, ay mas pinapahirapan pa at pinadaan sa butas ng karayom para lang makatanggap ng perang inilaan naman talaga para sa kanila,” Romualdez said. “Sa totoo lang, the guidelines were set by the national government and we merely implemented it and followed it as applicable under our circumstances. As a mayor and an elected local government executive, my primary duty is to my constituents, the very people who elected me as mayor,” he added. For the ESA, Tacloban, considered as the ground zero of Yolanda, received more than P728 million.
The city received more than P100 million under the Recovery Assistance for Yolanda and more than P35 million for the aquaculture project. (JOEY A. GABIETA)