MANILA (UPDATE) — The Department of the Interior and Local Government filed Wednesday a complaint at the Office of the Ombudsman against Olongapo City Mayor Rolen Paulino Jr. for policies that repeatedly violated protocols to curb the coronavirus pandemic.
Paulino in April organized a mass gathering for the distribution of cards needed for the most vulnerable families to get cash aid from the national government, said Interior Undersecretary and Spokesperson Jonathan Malaya.
"In that instance, we already admonished him and warned him to fully comply with IATF regulations, otherwise we may be compelled to charge him," Malaya said in a statement.
Paulino in May established a special pass system that allowed motorcycle backrides, despite a ban on this by an inter-agency task force heading the national pandemic response. The mayor only suspended the passes instead of revoking these after the interior department called him out, said Malaya.
“We are dismayed because as the local chief executive of Olongapo, he should be the first to follow the guidelines issued by the national government... And yet he issued his own policies inconsistent with national policies,” he said.
In a separate statement, Paulino said the motorcycle backride policy was immediately scrapped upon receipt of notice from the DILG, and the relevant Executive Order was recalled following President Rodrigo Duterte's opposition to backrides in Cebu after its governor Gwen Garcia issued an executive order allowing it.
"Isa po ito sa mga nakita naming solusyon sa kakulangan ng public transportation nung mga panahon na iyon," he explained.
(This was among the solutions we saw in addressing the lack of public transportation at the time.)
"Rest assured po na nakikiisa po tayo sa IATF at sa ating Pangulo sa kagustuhan na labanan ang COVID-19."
(Rest assured we are one with the IATF and the President in fighting COVID-19.)
Paulino said he has yet to receive a copy of the complaint but he welcomes the "opportunity to explain our side with the Ombudsman."
The mayor faces a complaint for gross neglect of duty, grave misconduct, violation of the Bayanihan Act and the public health concern law, and open disobedience under the Revised Penal Code, according to Malaya.
“The matter is now in the hands of the Office of the Ombudsman. Doon na po magpapaliwanag ang alkalde ng Olongapo (the mayor of Olongapo will explain there),” he said.
The city recorded its latest COVID-19 last May 26, Paulino said. It recorded a total of 13 patients, 10 of whom recovered while 3 are still recuperating from the disease, according to the health department.