From desk to park: Zamboanga mayor 'demotes' staff

By Queenie Casimiro, ABS-CBN News Zamboanga

Posted at Jul 16 2013 06:56 PM | Updated as of Jul 17 2013 02:56 AM

ZAMBOANGA – From their office desks to the park.

This is where at least six personnel holding civil service career positions in Titay, Zamboanga Sibugay are now reporting after they were demoted by the municipal mayor.

The government employees received a memorandum on June 27 signed by Mayor Maria Esperanza Corazon Rillera, otherwise known as Mayor Mec, giving them a “special detail assignment”.

Effective July 1, the six employees were tasked to clean the park fronting the town hall daily.

Cristina Betacura, 58, an agricultural technologist since 1978 was found by ABS-CBN News on Monday sweeping the park grounds along with five other government employees.

Betacura could not hold her tears upon recalling how her children and family members received the news when she informed them of her new job.

"Low morale gyud mi," Betacura said in Visayan dialect.

She said she cannot think of any reason for her demotion except her husband's open support of Rillera's political nemesis in the last elections.

"Wala man akong ginawa na kasalanan sa kanya o sa trabaho ko," Betacura said amidst her tears.

Consolacion Celeste, a midwife for 18 years, said she is supposed to be assisting pregnant women at the health center, care for the infants who visit for immunization shots, and give medication to the sick.

But for 15 days now, she is holding a broomstick and dustpan, sweeping in the park.

Celeste admitted that her husband, who is a barangay kagawad, also supported Liberal Party mayoralty candidate Mario de los Reyes in the last polls.

It is doubly painful for Nonita Alison who was been the municipal government's administrative assistant for 13 years now.

Alison said she has been serving the Rillera's administration since the term of Mayor
Mec's father, ex-Mayor Gil Rillera.

When the younger Rillera assumed office for her first term, Alison was assigned as secretary to the mayor.

Alison said she was even considered as Mayor Mec's “right hand man”. However, a problem ensued between her and the lady mayor towards the end of her first term.

Thus, right after the elections, Mayor Mec issued the memo, including Alison in the six personnel she is designating as park attendants.

The memo did not specify the date the “special” task will end.

In an interview, Mayor Mec denied she demoted the municipal government employees.

"They are the chosen ones," Mayor Mec said. "They are part of my biggest project, the Make
Your Environment Clean or MEC program."

Rillera said the MEC program not only pertains to cleanliness but also health services and infrastructure.

Rillera said she is even surprised to find the six personnel cleaning the park on Monday morning.

"Dahil may darating pala na media," Rillera added.

The lady mayor claimed she already issued another memorandum assigning Betacura to oversee the planting of rubber trees in an abandoned mining site in the municipality.

Rillera denied she was driven by political agenda when she reassigned the six town employees.

"During my first term meron na ‘yan," she explained.

On July 2, the concerned town employees submitted their letter of complaint at the Civil Service Commission Provincial Office against Mayor Rillera.

CSC Assistant Regional Director Alvin Araneta said the six employees' positions are not at par to be reassigned as park attendants.

"It appears there is violation of their security of tenure, it is a demotion not only in rank but also in status."

Araneta advised the complainants to pursue their case before the CSC.