Surigao council declares mayor’s ally ‘persona non grata’

SURIGAO CITY (MindaNews/25 October)—The city council approved Thursday afternoon a resolution declaring Balgamelo “Baby” C. Ma, Mayor Ernesto Matugas’ alleged “alter ego,” a “persona non grata” (unwelcome person).

Councilor Baltazar Abian, an engineer, sponsored the resolution, which met no objection from any of the council members.

Ma, who so far did not respond to text messages and calls for his comments, is allegedly interfering in the operations of the city government.

Ma is holding office at the Surigao City Government but he is not actually connected with city hall, said Vice Mayor Danilo C. Menor, a lawyer.

Councilor Fernando S. Almeda III, also a lawyer, said they have summoned Ma many times to hear his side about several controversies and complaints involving affairs at the city hall.

One of the controversies involved Ma’s alleged order to fire 14 barangay health workers, according to Vice Mayor Menor.

Ma was the political adviser and campaign manager of Matugas in past elections. In 2010, when Matugas became the mayor, he acted as the city administrator.

This prompted the city council to question Ma’s authority after the legislative body did not give its concurrence to his appointment.

Ma is also allegedly a Taiwanese national.

Councilor Abain said that city hall “is wasting money on Ma.”

He is using the government’s facility when in fact he is not a government worker, Abian claimed.

In 2011, Ma, who was appointed by Matugas as adviser on political affairs, and 13 others were charged before the Ombudsman for graft. Matugas was also among the respondents.

“The said 14 employees starting from the original contracts and to the renewal of the same were executed without the required authority of the city council as mandated by Section 455 of the Local Government Code,” according to the complaint filed by Jamar Gavino, Rey Culbo and the late Bernardo Pecho.

They argued that the amount of compensation and functions and duties of the respondent contractual employees were unilaterally determined by Mayor Matugas, “ignoring and illegally usurping the inherent power and authority of the city council to determine the power and duties of officials and employees of the city and to determine the positions, salaries, wages , allowances and other emoluments and benefits of officials paid wholly or mainly from city funds and provide for expenditures necessary for the proper conduct of programs, projects, services and activities of the city government.”

In November 22, 2010, Ma, then acting as the city administrator, was stabbed several times by an unknown suspect outside his house. (Roel Catoto/MindaNews)