Documents show Oro officials unprepared for ‘Sendong’

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/17 September)— Official documents recently obtained from City Hall appear to bolster public perception that local officials had acted a little too late in taking steps that would have prevented the tragedy brought by floods spawned by tropical storm Sendong in December last year.

In his interviews with various local media outlets, City Mayor Vicente Emano insisted he should not be blamed for the unparalleled loss of lives and destruction of properties caused by Sendong.

Aside from Cagayan de Oro, Sendong (International codename: Washi) hit Iligan City and Libona town in Bukidnon, and claimed 1,257 lives with at least a thousand more reported missing and feared dead. In this city alone, 615 were confirmed dead, 555 have remained missing and at least 225 were injured.

Most of the fatalities were beneficiaries of Emano’s “Piso-piso” Resettlement Program. One such site of the program—Isla Delta—is a sandbar in the middle of Cagayan River. While other fatalities resided in low-lying zones mapped by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) as geohazard areas or flood-prone areas after flashfloods that hit the city in 2009.

Emano argued that he “already issued an executive order prohibiting anybody (from) living near the river” and that he holds “notarized affidavits of village chairs of riverside barangays stating that people have lived there 40 to 47 years ago.”

However, under Executive Order 022-2012, “An order creating the planning management team (PMT) and technical working group (TWG) for the updating of the comprehensive land use plan (CLUP) and zoning ordinance of Cagayan de Oro City, and mainstreaming disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation into the plan,” City Hall has yet to update its land use plan and zoning ordinance.

Emano issued the order on March 16, 2012 or three months after Sendong.

And contrary to Emano’s claims that he did not allow people to live in areas identified as geohazard by the DENR is City Ordinance 7406-2000. Passed on Sept. 19, 2000, the ordinance “appropriated the sum Php 59, 267 from the 1998 continuing allotment of the general fund…to be made available for the electric connection at Isla Delta—Php 10,000 and water connection at Macanhan, Carmen—Php 12,555…”

Emano is recently in hot water after Save CDO Now Movement members, ex-councilors Celestino Ocio and Teodulfo Lao and then Barangay Gusa chair Enrico Salcedo, Dr. Vincent Tero and Pastor Raul Ramon Roa slapped the local chief executive with gross negligence and dereliction of duty in relation to Sendong.

“Blood is in the hands of the mayor. Emano, in power for the last 13 years, has much to answer for. Through his negligence or inaction, defiance of the orders of concerned government authorities that brought about (sic) the unprecedented death (sic) and destruction caused by typhoon Sendong,” the group’s affidavit of complaint reads in part.

The city passed Ordinance 12217-2011, “An ordinance adopting and approving the program of the City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Fund for calendar year 2011…to effectively carry out the concept, intents and purposes of Republic Act 10121…”

But the ordinance was passed on December 13, 2011, or at least a year behind the deadline for compliance as provided by RA 10121, the Disaster Risk Reduction Management Act of 2010.

In an interview, Salcedo said their group will not stop with the administrative case but will continue to hold Emano accountable by filing criminal charges as stipulated under the Disaster Risk Reduction Management Act of 2010.

Sec.19 (Prohibited Acts) of RA 10121 includes “dereliction of duties which leads to destruction, loss of lives, critical damage of facilities and misuse of funds.”

Officials convicted of such acts, the law adds, face a fine of between P50,000 and P500,000 or imprisonment of not less than six years and one day or more than twelve years, or both, at the discretion of the court, including perpetual disqualification form public office if the offender is a public officer.

“Tuloy-tuloy na ni. We have also filed criminal cases against him (Emano). This is for the safety of the people of Cagayan de Oro so that no local chief executive in the future will follow his bad example,” said Salcedo. (Cong Corrales/MindaNews)