DILG-Pangasinan chief relieved from post after 'harassment' of onion farmer: Abalos

Jorge Cariño, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 24 2023 07:01 PM

Trigger warning: This article mentions suicide.

MANILA — Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Benjamin Abalos Jr. on Tuesday said a DILG director in Pangasinan was relieved following the reported harassment of an onion farmer who recently testified at a Senate hearing.

Abalos said he ordered the relief of the official to ensure that the DILG's investigation into the alleged harassment incident would be free from bias.

“Pending investigation, pinaalis ko muna para unbiased. Usually ganoon ang ginagawa ko eh. If there is any complaint at all, alis ka muna sa puwesto, iba muna OIC habang iniimbestigahan kita at inatasan ko si Usec [Marlo] Iringan to investigate this,” he told reporters. 

(Pending investigation, I had the official removed. Usually, that's what I do. If there is any complaint at all, leave your post, someone else will be the OIC while you are being investigated. I have tasked Usec Irigan to investigate this.)

While Abalos did not name the relieved director, he clarified that the official was only relieved and not suspended.

Abalos also said that he has yet to receive an explanation from the relieved DILG director on the incident, which he learned from Sen. Imee Marcos last Thursday.

“Mariin kong kinokondena ang ginawang hakbang ng PNP Bayambang, Pangasinan na gipitin si Nanay Merly Gallardo na aking inimbitahan sa Senate hearing nitong Martes, January 17," Sen. Marcos' statement read, referring to the Senate hearing that probed the rising prices of onions in the country. 

(I strongly condemn the PNP-Bayambang's move to harass Nanay Merly Gallardo who I invited in this Senate hearing last January 17.)

Gallardo testified before the Senate that her husband Roger, also a farmer, took his own life in 2021 after his debts ballooned to P1.7 million. Two days after her testimony, some police officers allegedly visited her home 8 times, asking about Roger and other farmers who also killed themselves. 

Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Rodolfo Azurin Jr. has since apologized to Gallardo for the incident, calling it a "miscommunication." 

"We already explained our side kay Nanay Merlita… I asked for an apology, because there was a miscommunication and misunderstanding on the intent, why pumunta ang ating kapulisan doon. Last week nag-usap kami kay Nanay Merlita… Tinanggap naman po ‘yung apology namin,” Azurin said.

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Editor's note:

A group in the Philippines is dedicated to addressing those who have suicidal tendencies.

The crisis hotlines of the Natasha Goulbourn Foundation aim to make these individuals feel that someone is ready to listen to them.

These are their hotline numbers:

Information and Crisis Intervention Center
(02) 804-HOPE (4673)
0917-558-HOPE (4673) or (632) 211-4550
0917-852-HOPE (4673) or (632) 964-6876
0917-842-HOPE (4673) or (632) 964-4084

In Touch Crisis Lines:
0917-572-HOPE or (632) 211-1305
(02) 893-7606 (24/7)
(02) 893-7603 (Mon-Fri, 9 am-5 pm)
Globe (63917) 800.1123 or (632) 506.7314
Sun (63922) 893.8944 or (632) 346.8776