Saying she and her fellow barangay officials in Bel Air, Makati City have passed every official audit on their use of their village’s funds, Constancia Lichauco blamed a local celebrity for making a mountain out of a molehill, resulting in a case filed against her before the Ombudsman.
The celebrity is one of the country’s former beauty queens who lives alone in the exclusive community, she said.
“We used to play tennis together,” Lichauco said, adding that she had no idea why her former friend turned against her. Whenever they see each other at the weekend market in Salcedo Village, Lichauco waves or smiles at the celebrity, who simply ignores her.
Lichauco has been Punong Barangay of Barangay Bel Air for 18 years. In the six times that she ran for three-year terms, she has been challenged only twice, and on those occasions handily beat her opponents.
“I live, breathe and feel Bel Air,” she told The Manila Times. The 75-year-old widow said she devotes all her time to serving the village, where she has lived for more than four decades.
Lichauco first became barangay captain in 1989. She served three terms before taking a break, returning after her fellow Bel Air residents asked that she run again. She told The Times that she has not yet decided if she will seek reelection this October.
She said she was not surprised a case would be filed against her before the Ombudsman. Since the beauty queen had no chance of unseating her—“She has no friends in Bel Air,” according to Lichauco—the only way to remove her was to file the lawsuit using other conduits.
Unfortunately, according to the village chief, the Ombudsman files charges against government officials even in the absence of hard evidence. Sometimes, Lichauco added, charges are filed based on hearsay.
While Barangay Bel Air is indeed the richest village in the Philippines based on its annual income of P150 million, misusing its funds is all but impossible, she told The Times.
“People think that just because you have P150 million, you’re free to spend P150 million,” she said. This is not the case. The bulk of that money is already budgeted every year to specific expenses.
Line budgeting means that there is nothing in the amount that can be construed as the barangay equivalent of pork barrel, she said.
Besides the Commission on Audit (COA), they also have an internal auditor to make sure that their funds are spent wisely, and within legal bounds.
Since her barangay council is comprised of some of the most respected members of the business community, no form of hanky panky is possible, she said.
Lichauco said that her constituents will be her ultimate judge. The unnamed celebrity can run against her in October, if she wants, she added.
Lichauco belied reports (not in this newspaper) that she owned three condos in Rockwell in Makati. She said her house in Bel Air is the only real property she owned.