THE game is over for Romulo Peña Jr., and so with the thousands of employees in the Makati City Hall that he hired during his short term.
The Binays have regained power in the city with the victory of incumbent Mayor Mar-len Abigail Binay-Campos last year. But her return came with a vengeance including for employees affiliated with the former acting mayor and for people who were deemed disloyal to her family.
At least 1,218 casuals, 22 contractuals and 78 consultants hired by Peña in July 2015 were all removed from their posts on June 30, 2016 when the new mayor took office, according to a record disclosed by city spokesperson Michael Camiña.
This was apart from the 326 supposed “midnight appointments” Peña issued that were revoked by the Civil Service Commission (CSC) on December 2016.
Lalaine Guanzon, 47, was among them who struggled to find a living amid the political uncertainty in the city while suffering from rheumatoid arthritis – a long-lasting auto-immune disease that primarily affects joints and limits the movement of a person.
“So since June , we had no work. We scrambled to find a living,” she told The Manila Times.
The single mother of two was among the PWDs hired under the Office of the Mayor – seven as casual and 24 as job order employees – who were kicked out from city hall under the change of administration.
“We told the mayor, the elections are over. We hope she will embrace us so that the employment program for us can continue,” Guanzon said.
She said her group has been working in the city government for 11 years as “volunteers” but despite years of lobbying for an allowance, it was only in the previous term when they were included in the payroll.
Peña took over the mayoralty post from then Mayor Jejomar Erwin Binay Jr. after the latter’s suspension and later dismissal from office over corruption issues in 2015. This interrupted the Binay family’s 29 years of rule in Makati.
The family came back to power after Peña lost to Abigail Binay by more than 18,000 votes in the May 2016 polls.
However, Camiña clarified that there were no terminations. “The services of casuals, contractuals and consultants hired by Peña either lapsed or were not renewed as a result of our personnel audit and review,” he said in a statement.
He was referring to a city personnel office report showing alleged “rampant nepotism and the hiring of allies” of the former acting mayor “for political ends.”
“There was also a prevalence of double compensation where some Peña appointees received salaries and benefits from the office of the mayor and the barangay [villages],” Camiña said.
“Ghost employees – or Peña appointees who did not report for work but collected salaries – were also documented. We also discovered that he even hired PWDs who are residents of exclusive villages,” he added.
Camiña clarified though that those interested may re-apply upon evaluation based on aptitude, skills, educational background and other requirements set under civil service rules.
However, Guanzon said the government was telling them that there was no vacant position for them.
Two highly placed sources told The Manila Times there was an office set up for differently abled employees but this has been dissolved.
This, despite Republic Act 10524, an act expanding the positions reserved for PWDs, that mandates all government agencies to reserve at least one percent of all positions for persons who have special needs.
The Manila Times followed up further details from the city hall for a week. But prior to the release of this article, a source said that an official of a city organization for PWDs was summoned by the mayor’s office, reprimanding her for supposedly undermining Binay.
She was later quoted in a press release as expressing satisfaction for the benefits the city has been providing them.
“Since I became a registered PWD of Makati eight years ago, I have been satisfied with the benefits provided by the city government. I really enjoy watching movies for free. I have no complaints,” Rosie Manto, a 64-year-old PWD resident of Barangay East Rembo, said, referring to the P11.2 million-worth of free mobility aids and free movie benefits for them.