LGUs in the Philippines

Zamboanga Norte-Dipolog tension nears boiling point over donation dispute

Gualberto Laput
Zamboanga Norte-Dipolog tension nears boiling point over donation dispute

DEADLOCK. The Dipolog city government hangs notice at old Zamboanga Provincial Hospital to assert its claim.

Gualberto Laput / Rappler

State auditors say the donations made by the provincial government under former governor Roberto Uy are invalid, and that it should take legal action to get them back

DIPOLOG CITY, Philippines – The Zamboanga del Norte provincial government and the Dipolog city government are on the brink of a legal showdown as the Commission on Audit (COA) flagged irregularities in the provincial capitol’s donation of vehicles, equipment, and pieces of land to city hall and other local governments in the province during the administration of former governor Roberto Uy.

The mass donations, made with authority from the previous Zamboanga del Norte provincial board immediately before a change in administration in June last year, were widely seen as sabotage, and a political statement against the election victory of Governor Rosalina Jalosjos, Uy’s political foe.

On January 19, COA released an Audit Observation Memorandum (AOM), signed by COA team leader Jonathan Manuel and supervising auditor Jeanette Calamohoy, stating that the donations “were not in accordance with pertinent provisions on the Rules and Regulations on Supply and Property Management in the Local Governments.”

he COA recommended that the provincial capitol “institute legal actions to recover the donated vehicles, equipment, and lands.” 

Of the 67 provincial board resolutions for donation to other local governments, 40 have deeds of donation covering 26 donees, while 27 were without deeds of donation, the state auditors noted.

The donations included at least 116 vehicles, equipment, and parcels of land. 

The COA stated that the modality used for the mass donations can be seen, based on Rule 21, Section 166-b of COA Circular 92-386, as “transfer without cost which is dependent only on the two established criteria: 1. Become unserviceable, and 2. No longer needed.”

However, the COA said that all of the donations were “serviceable, mostly in its best condition, being newly procured, currently in use, and with values,” making the acts “invalid.”

City hall, however, was defiant on Thursday, January 26, and hung tarpaulins at the old provincial hospital compound with the message: “Unauthorized persons keep out: Property of the City Government of Dipolog.”

The property, one of the donations of the Uy administration to the Dipolog City government, currently houses a storage facility for COVID-19 vaccines and offices being used by the following:

  • Provincial Office of Indigenous Peoples
  • Army’s 97th Infantry Battalion 
  • Philippine Air Force
  • Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office
  • Commission on Elections
  • Provincial Health Office
  • Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office

On October 19, 2022, Dipolog Mayor Darel Dexter Uy, the former governor’s son, wrote to the offices to inform them that city hall had already acquired the lot through a deed of donation.

The tension between the capitol and city hall is nearing boiling point, with both sides taking drastic measures to assert their claim over the disputed property. 

The provincial government, armed with the COA recommendations to recover the disputed donations, has deployed militias to secure the compound.

Meanwhile, the city government, determined to hold on to the property it claims to have acquired through a lawful deed of donation, has also sent its own militias to protect its interests. 

With both sides refusing to back down, observers said the stage is set for a high-stakes legal battle that could have far-reaching consequences for local politics and the future of the province. – Rappler.com

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