Biñan officials' travels bared

Eduardo Año

Residents in 3 villages urge DILG to take action.

THE Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) has been asked by residents of Biñan City, Laguna, to look into the foreign travels of their local executives headed by Mayor Walfredo ‘Arman’ Dimaguila, which allegedly took place despite the ban on “foreign junkets” by all government officials ordered by President Rodrigo Duterte.

In a 3-page letter to DILG secretary, Eduardo M. Año, signed by at least 50 residents coming from the villages of Dela Paz, San Antonio and Tubigan and transmitted to his office last April 11, they want to know if, indeed, these foreign trips beginning in 2016, were approved by the DILG.

“Sa ilang pagkakataon po kasi na natanong ang mga konsehal sa bagay na ito ay sinasabi nila ni Mayor Dimaguila na ‘with approval’ naman ng DILG kaya hindi na ito dapat pag-usapan (In a few instances when our councilors were asked about these trips they and Mayor Dimaguila said these were ‘with the approval’ of the DILG so this is not worth discussing),” the group told Año.

Attached to the letter were documents detailing these trips while the names of the complaining residents are being withheld for their own protection.

Accordingly, the documents showed that Dimaguila alone made 15 trips abroad, the first on June 22, 2017 when he went to Macau while his last foreign trip was made last March 7, 2019, when he went to Singapore.

The official having the most trips abroad at 17 is Vice Mayor Angelo Alonte, who went to Dubai last May 12, 2018 while his last foreign trip was recorded last March 8, 2019, when he went to Bangkok, Thailand.

Third on the list is Councilor Liza Cardeño with 13 trips, the first when she went to Japan on June 22, 2016, while her last trip was to Dubai last February 22, 2019

Other Biñan councilors who went abroad for the same period are: Councilor Jaime Salandanan (6); Councilor Geronimo Romantigue (4); Councilor Jayson Suoza (6); Councilor Flaviano Pecaña (7); Councilor Jonalina Reyes (10);and, Councilor Mariz Lindsey ‘Hershey’ Tan Gana (7), for a total number of 85 trips abroad.

From the documents, it also appears that Cardeño, Romantigue, Suoza, Salandanan, and Pecaña were together during the trip to Dubai last February 22.

On the other hand, it would also appear that during a trip to Hong Kong in November 2018, the group consisted of Dimaguila, Alonte, Reyes, Romantigue, Suoza, Cardeño, Salandanan and Tan Gana.

The travel log showed Dimaguila, Cardeño, Pecaña, Reyes, Suoza, Salandanan and Romantigue left for Hong Kong last November 25, 2018 on board Hong Kong Airlines Flight HX-782 while Alonte boarded a separate flight, Philippine Airlines Flight PR 318, on the same date.

It also appears that Tan Gana followed them two days later via Philippine Airlines Flight PR300.

A source at city hall recalled the city council session for this period had to be postponed for lack of quorum.

The visit to Hong kKong was made more than a year after the issuance by President Duterte of ‘Memorandum Circular (MC) 35 series of 2017’ dated November 22, 2017. The circular imposed restrictions on foreign travels by all government officials and employees, to include those in local government units.

MC 35 was amended by Executive Order 77 signed by President Duterte last March 15.
Both regulations mandate that those seeking to travel abroad would first need to seek written permission from higher authority, in this case, the DILG secretary.

Even private foreign travels, where no public money is to be spent, were also banned by the Chief Executive.