4 mayors, no projects in Albuera, Leyte in 2016 – COA

MANILA, Philippines – Political turmoil in the town of Albuera, Leyte, cost the people in this town a water supply, day care centers, health centers, small-scale irrigation, fishing infrastructure and livelihood projects.

These are the 15 projects in Albuera already funded by the national government last year, but never accomplished according to the 2016 report of the Commission on Audit (COA). COA noted that the town had to transition 4 times to 4 mayors during that period.

Former mayor Ramon dela Cerna Jr, who was serving his first term in Albuera, lost to Rolando Espinosa Sr in the May 2016 elections. Dela Cerna did not wait until the oath-taking and resigned, with reports citing Dela Cerna feared for his safety.

Vice Mayor Norman Mesina had to be sworn in to fill up the remaining last month of the term. Mesina then handed over the post to the duly-elected Espinosa on June 30, 2016. 

In October 2016, Espinosa was arrested on charges of illegal possession of firearms and peddling illegal drugs. He was killed inside his cell at the Leyte Provincial Jail in November by policemen who claimed the mayor fought back with a gun. The cops are now facing charges of homicide – downgraded from murder by the Department of Justice – with their team head Superintendent Marvin Marcos reinstated to his post.

Vice Mayor Rosa Meneses replaced Espinosa in November 2016. Meneses said the local government is working hard to restore order to their workflows and processes.

Questioned spending

Aside from the unaccomplished projects, COA also flagged Albuera's low spending on disaster risk reduction. For 2016, they only used 7.71% of their P4.65 million Local Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Fund (LDRRMF).

“From the total available funds for prevention and mitigation purposes of the LDRRMF, only a meager amount was disbursed. Such funds were intended for prevention and mitigation purposes which could have been utilized to procure or acquire equipment/facilities that could be used to avoid damage to properties or loss of lives,” the COA said.

COA also hit the town's unauthorized use of their Special Education Fund (SEF). According to the report, P1.52 million from the SEF was spent on "electricity, phone, and power bills; seminars and trainings; furniture and fixtures; and office equipment."

“The SEF was used for purposes other than its intended purpose. Such expenses should have been paid from the funds of regular maintenance and other operating expenses provided by the Department of Education,” the COA pointed out.

A recommendation has already been made by COA to Albuera executives, who said they will review their policies. 

Albuera has been racked by controversies since the May 2016 elections due to security. It was an area of concern during the polls, where local officials were reported to have refused to hold positions due to security reasons.

In June, a newly-elected councilor was gunned down just after Dela Cerna resigned.

Espinosa's son Kerwin disappeared just after the elections, flying to Malaysia, Thailand, Hong Kong, and then Abu Dhabi where he was arrested by the police and brought home to the Philippines. – Rappler.com