MANILA - Five mayors in northern Luzon may face administrative sanctions for their absence during the onslaught of Typhoon Ompong late last year, the interior department said Tuesday.
The agency earlier asked a total of 16 mayors from Cagayan Valley and the Cordilleras to explain their alleged absence from their towns when Ompong inundated large swaths of the country and left at least 82 people killed in September last year.
The 5 mayors whose explanations were "inadequate and unjustified" may face administrative sanctions from the Office of the Ombudsman, Interior Assistant Secretary and Spokesperson Jonathan Malaya said in a statement.
“Despite having knowledge of the impending typhoon and the DILG advisory, said mayors were not in their posts during the typhoon. Such act on their part may be considered as dereliction of duty, negligence, or other administrative offense. We have referred their case to the Office of the Ombudsman,” he said.
Of the 16 mayors, only 1 gave an acceptable explanation for his absence. The local official attended an urgent hearing at the Sandiganbayan in Quezon City, but returned immediately to his area of responsibility, said Malaya.
Six mayors will receive a written admonition for failing to personally supervise the evacuation, rescue and relief operations for their constituents, he said.
The interior department rejected the mayors' excuses of attending a training workshop in Baguio, a meeting in Davao, economic development and agriculture-related activities in Manila, and a meeting in Malacañang.
The local officials were merely invited, not ordered, to attend the activities, said Malaya.
"They should have prioritized the welfare of their constituents. That’s the reason why we cannot accept such an explanation," he said.
The explanation of 4 more mayors needs revalidation and was referred to DILG regional offices, he added.
“The DILG wishes to remind all Local Chief Executives and all other local elective officials that they are considered 'on-call' any time of the day. That is the essence of public service," said Malaya.
Under the law, a local official may be disciplined, suspended, or removed from office for gross negligence, dereliction of duty, or misconduct in office.
A local chief executive is also the head of the local disaster council and must carry out emergency measures during man-made and natural disasters.