SAN PEDRO CITY, Philippines - Village captains in this city would be driving around in brand new cars paid for with public funds.
Except for Eugenio Ynion Jr., the barangay (village) captain of San Antonio, all 19 other village chiefs were given new cars in May.
Romeo Marcelo, president of the city's Association of Barangay Captains (ABC), got a Toyota Avanza, while the rest each got a Hyundai Accent.
The village chiefs who each received Accents are Ildefonso Perez (Bagong Silang), Rodolfo Geronimo (Calendola), Mario Pastidio (Cuyab), Zenaida Madrigalejos (Estrella), Ronaldo Orlain (GSIS), Maria Corazon Amil (Landayan), Romeo Poyaoan (Langgam), Ruby Adajar (Laram), Vioquelin Pascual (Magsaysay), Ramon Diamante (Narra), Abelardo Alon-alon (Nueva), Christian Albert Aquino (Poblacion), Edwin Cardino (Riverside), Emmanuel Chavez (Sampaguita), Arnel Belza (San Roque), Maria Rosario Campos (San Vicente), Romel Anchoriza (Sto. Niño) and Bernabe Baldomar (United Better Living).
The city government purchased the cars out of its general fund, but city accountant Lorna Andigan, reached by phone on Wednesday, said she could not immediately disclose the total amount spent for the new vehicles.
Hyundai's online price list, however, showed that the cheapest model of an Accent, a sedan, costs P648,000 (S$19,000).
An Avanza, an Asian utility vehicle (AUV), costs at least P700,000.
Ynion, in a phone interview, also on Wednesday, said he believed the reason he was not issued a new car was because of his political differences with Mayor Lourdes "Baby" Cataquiz, the wife of this city's former mayor, Calixto Cataquiz.
Calixto has been perpetually barred from holding public office after his conviction in a graft case involving the misuse of funds when he was still head of the Laguna Lake Development Authority (LLDA).
Ynion said that in January, during the election for ABC president, the city government "promised" the village captains their own cars in exchange for not voting for Ynion as the association's head. "To me, this is a kind of patronage politics," said Ynion.
"Like a form of bribery, no different from (the issue) of DAP (Disbursement Acceleration Program)," he said, referring to the fund received by senators, acting as an impeachment court, that convicted former Chief Justice Renato Corona in 2012.
But city information officer Sonny Ordoña dismissed Ynion's claims as "speculation."
He said the cars were issued to the village chiefs to improve their mobility since most are busy with fieldwork.
He said the village chiefs each signed a memorandum of receipt and would be asked to return the car to the city government after their term has ended.
Calixto Cataquiz, in a separate phone interview on Wednesday, said Ynion, a businessman here, did not get a car because he was not very supportive of the ABC. The distribution of the cars to the other village heads, he added, would give the officials some "prestige."
"They used to arrive in formal meetings, wearing barong, but in old vehicles," said Calixto.
In a Sept. 14, 2011 ruling, the Supreme Court found Calixto guilty of graft and penalized him with disqualification from reemployment in government service.
The decision was made on the complaint filed by the worker's union of the LLDA which Calixto headed as general manager in 2001.
Calixto's case prompted the Commission on Elections to disqualify him from seeking reelection as mayor of the town in 2013 less than a week before the elections. His wife ran in his place, however, and won.
Ynion said while the village chiefs got new cars, some of the villages in the city don't have ambulances and police patrol vehicles.