BY CHRYSEE G. SAMILLANO
“We are open to any legitimate investigation anytime because we are not hiding anything,” Bacolod Mayor Evelio Leonardia said yesterday in reaction to a petition to the President seeking the liquidation of the funds being utilized by the city for the COVID-19 pandemic.
The petition posted on change.org by a group called Bacolod Exposed is seeking the liquidation of all expenses of the city and asking the President to take action on it.
“We cannot tolerate the lawlessness of our city officials especially our mayor. We firmly believe there is something wrong with the usage of the budget given for the pandemic and false presentation of the numbers of positive cases,” the petitioners claimed.
Leonardia said there is no local government that has no accounting system or Commission on Audit. The auditing, check and balance, and accounting system are all in place.
“We are not hiding anything. All they have to do is check on it because this information is being posted in the internet,” he said.
He believes that all this involves politics. These people want to make it appear that they do not want to be investigated. But they are open to any investigation as long as it is legitimate, Leonardia said.
They can be investigated by the COA, the Department of Interior and Local Government or the Office of the President anytime, he said.
Leonardia is requesting the public not to be misled or deceived by these people. He is also hoping that their political detractors will allow them to focus on their fight against COVID-19.
There will be a time for politics but they should set that aside for now. If these people want to play politics there is nothing they can do but they should not do it now. They should focus fighting COVID-19 and politics should come later, he said.
“We see that there is an organized crime hitting us. Even their presentation on social media is professionally done. This is not done by citizen’s sentiment. We understand that there are people whose objective is to destroy our administration,” the mayor added.
If they helped the city, the elimination of COVID-19 will be hastened, Leonardia said.
There are even people objecting to the news that Bacolod was chosen among the national finalists for the Most Business-Friendly City by the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry because of the pandemic. But the basis of the 2020 award are the data of 2019, which has always been the practice, he said.
“If we win this award, this will help enhance the investment image of Bacolod City so more investors will come to the city. What these people are doing is trying to destroy the image of Bacolod,” Leonardia said.
This is not about Bing Leonardia but this is about Bacolod. They should help Bacolod progress instead, he said.
“We have to consider that the economy of the city has slowed down due to COVID-19. But what is important is we should be prepared that after the pandemic is over, we will hit the ground running,” Leonardia said.
They have a queue of investors that have stopped because of COVID-19, but he believes that after the pandemic is over they will stay in Bacolod. They are even encouraging these investors to start because if they do, this will become part of the city’s stimulus program that is supposed to revive the economy and let it run, he said.
He recalled that in 2019 and the years before that, Bacolod was having its unprecedented growth. Bacolod has never grown that fast. From 18,817 business registrations before they came in, this reached 25,627 or a 38 percent increase in 2019, Leonardia said.
That was a testimony that Bacolod was growing, it was having that momentum that was disrupted by COVID-19, the mayor said.
The important thing is that when the time comes, Bacolod will be able to recover right away. They should prioritize whatever will be good for Bacolod, instead of attending to politics, he added.*