New Valencia City mayor vows transparency, accountability

VALENCIA CITY (MindaNews/11 June) — Mayor Azucena Huervas, who assumed as city mayor Monday, vowed to pursue transparent and accountable governance in her administration.

Huervas replaced former mayor Jose Galario Jr., who has become a fugitive after failing to show up last week when police came to serve a bench warrant of arrest issued by the Sandiganbayan for his conviction in a case filed by a former city hall official.

“We are looking at good governance – fair delivery of services to the people. We assure transparency …Our accountability to the people who choose us,” Huevas, who took her oath on June 5 before Gov. Jose Ma. Zubiri Jr. in Manila said. Zubiri was in Manila for a personal trip abroad.

In a press conference Monday where members of the city council also attended, Huervas said she will prioritize programs on health, education, and security. She also cited infrastructure and agriculture as part of her priorities.

She is keen on pursuing that Valencia City will become “organic rice capital” but “right now we focus on our priority to organize the employees (of the city agriculture office).”

“If we say organic capital, there should be personnel to back it up. If you plan to pursue it, back it up with work; don’t just leave it as a plan. We need to sit down to work on this,” she added.

Huervas, who started as a village chairperson before becoming vice mayor in 2010, said others look at her assumption as mayor as destiny but she preferred to look at it as a responsibility.

Interviewed after the May 2010 polls, Huervas said she wanted to promote honesty in public office.

She chaired the city council oversight committee on good governance and anti-graft and corruption.

“I will closely watch graft and corruption. We will not tolerate any wrongdoing,” she said then.

“Maybe we can bump into many foes, but that will not make us tolerate wrongdoing,” she said. (See related story)

Huervas said she will pursue investigating alleged anomalies in the operation of the city central public market.

In the press conference Monday, the new mayor she had ordered an inventory of personnel in the different departments to avoid a bloated bureaucracy.

“Leaders use different techniques. I will not pay for someone who doesn’t work. If they work, we pay. But we also check it with the city government’s budget,” she said.

But Huervas clarified that those who have formal work appointments will receive pay.

“I don’t mark employees (based on political loyalties). If we have budget and they perform, we pay,” she added.

She said she will pursue the programs and projects committed by the deposed mayor up to the end of the year.

Unlike her predecessor, Huervas said she will assess the performance of the department heads first before undertaking a possible revamp.

In 2001, Galario replaced Ruth Piano as city budget officer citing “lack of trust and confidence”.

Piano filed a complaint before the Civil Service Commission, which decided in her favor. The commission elevated the case to the Ombudsman after Galario refused to reinstate Piano even with the CSC’s order, leading to Galario’s conviction under the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

Huervas said she will reinstate Juanita Javier, the city social welfare and development officer, who Galario transferred to the senior citizens’ office.

“I will restore Mrs. Javier because she is the licensed social welfare officer,” she explained.

She also said she will review the City’s Fund for the Protection of Children to check on its implementation so far over complaints on the presence of “rugby-sniffing” children in the city’s streets.

Huervas cited peace and order as among her priorities but also called on the public to be extra careful.

“I even hesitate to go out at night in the city because of the lack of police personnel. Let’s be vigilant personally,” she added, in response to a question on the safety of visitors in the city.

She asked for time to improve the city’s peace and order condition. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)