Mayor, six others face grave coercion raps

ILOILO City Mayor Jerry Treñas (Ricky Alejo photo)

By: Emme Rose Santiagudo

ILOILO City Mayor Jerry Treñas and six other officials under his administration are facing criminal and administrative charges for allegedly harassing and oppressing a regular employee of the City hall through reassignment and for coercing him to pin down his boss.

The charges against Treñas and company include grave coercion, grave misconduct, oppression, conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service, and unfair discrimination

The criminal and administrative charges were filed by Joe Mari Esteral against Treñas, City Administrator Melchor Tan, City General Services Office Head Joren Sartorio, City Legal Officer Edgar Gil, Iloilo City Civil Registry Assistant Department Head Cherrie Ampig, and Executive Assistants Fernando Jose Rico and Executive Assistant Rudiver Jungco Sr..

The cases were lodged with the Office of the Ombudsman Visayas in Cebu City on Sept 11, 2019.

Esteral, who was appointed on March 2, 2016 to the position of Book Binder II in the City Civil Registrar’s Office, is presently assigned at the city’s sanitary landfill at Calajunan in Mandurriao district.

In his affidavit, Esteral said he was surprised after receiving the Detail/Re-assignment Order upon the request of Sartorio and with concurrence of Ampig.

Tan recommended the reassignment which Treñas approved.

“Upon receipt, I immediately proceeded at the GSO and talked to Sartorio and I asked him why of so many persons he opted to personally request me to be re-assigned in his department to quote, he told me, Jom, bal-an mo na, sa babaw na, wala ko may mahimo. Akig gid si mayor kag si Melchor (Tan) kay boss mo Juncae (Manikan). Siguro damay ka lang di pero kay boss mo gid sila akig kag sa ila grupo. Pulitika lang na, malampas man lang na,” Esteral claimed in his affidavit.

According to Esteral, his new post at the Calajunan Dumpsite, which is more or less 20 kilometers away from Iloilo City Hall, is not related to his duty as a book binder.

“I find it very hard to accept that I was re-assigned at Calajunan Dump Site, incur additional expense and time for travel, yet since my first day of duty in my re-assigned post until the execution of this affidavit have not done anything for the service or for the good of the people in the said site germane to my duty as book binder,” he added.

Esteral also alleged that Rico and Jungco summoned and asked him to cooperate by pinning down his boss, Romeo Caesar ‘Juncae’ Manikan, the head of the Local Civil Registry Office, so that he (Esteral) and his wife can return to their previous deployment.

“Jungco asked me, ‘Gusto mo mabalik si Mrs. mo?’ Then, Jungco said to me, ‘Cooperate ka tani pre. Boyet Rico butted in and said, ‘Buligi lang kami pin down ang mga Manikan. Balik ka dayon sa mother unit mo,” the complainant added.

“After several days of duty at Calajunan Dump Site, I realized that as correctly said by Sartorio I was ordered re-assigned not in the name of public service but because of politics or because of the recently concluded election or my affiliation to Romeo Manikan Jr., my then boss at the City Registrar’s Office,” Esteral furthered.

Esteral appealed to the Ombudsman that the respondents be immediately placed under preventive suspensions pending investigations of his charges on them.

He also revealed that he is not the only person who is suffering from the said harassments, emphasizing that “there are still plenty of them but they are afraid to come out in the open due to the continuing intimidation and threat caused unto them”.

“I cannot anymore take the inhumane treatment I am getting from people who wield power and influence whimsically. Mr. President, I know you are a champion of the oppressed and downhearted and you hate abusive public officials especially those who occupy high offices. I beg you, sir, to look into my case for I have suffered much,” Esteral said in a separate letter he sent to President Rodrigo Duterte.

Both the Manikans have also been a target of controversies recently.

Tourism Assistant Department Head Eireen Rita Manikan, wife of Romeo Manikan,and two other regular employees of the city government, who were allegedly allies of former mayor Jose Espinosa III, were also sued for electioneering and ethics raps filed by four job hires on Aug 22, 2019.

Four City Hall job hires accused the Manikans and company of violation of the Election Code/Fair Election Act, Civil Service Law, and Republic Act No. 6713 (Code of Ethical Standards for Government Officials and Employees) for threatening them to support the candidacy of Espinosa, who ran for mayor in the May 13, 2019 midterm elections but lost to Treñas, otherwise they will be terminated from their work.

Eireen Rita’s husband, Romeo Caesar, was also investigated for the alleged defective marriages uncovered at his office.

Both the Manikans have denied the allegations.

Meanwhile, Treñas said that he personally does not know and have not even talked to Esteral.

“First of all, I do not know. Secondly, I have not talked to him so paano ko na na-coerce. I don’t even know him,” he said.

He stressed that all the detail or reassignment in the City Hall underwent the right processes.

“Well ang akon mga detail na, tanan na gaagi sa proseso kon may mga kinahanglan ang mga departments,” he said.

When asked about the case, the mayor said he will answer the complaint once he is directed to do so.

Mahulat lang ko, kon pasabton ta teh masabat ta eh,” he said.