There is a controversy plaguing a relatively unknown barangay in the City of Biñan in the Province of Laguna. It involves public money, and plenty of it. The barangay shares the name of the city — Barangay Biñan.
A certain Reingel Pelaez is the chairman of the Sangguniang Barangay or barangay council. Joel Neil Trinidad and Rudolph Jacen Daquis are the barangay secretary and treasurer, respectively.
In compliance with the provisions of Republic Act 10742, or the Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) Reform Act of 2015, the Departments of Budget and Management, and the Interior and Local Government, and the National Youth Commission issued Joint Memorandum Circular 1 dated 23 January 2019. This joint memorandum circular pertains to the duty of the barangay council to release funds earmarked by law for the exclusive use of the SK.
That amount of money is merely held in trust by the barangay council for the SK. It cannot be spent by the barangay council for any purpose whatsoever. If it does, that’s malversation, which is a felony punished under the Revised Penal Code.
Under Section 4.0 of the Joint Memorandum Circular, all funds earmarked for the SK and which remain undisbursed to the SK as of 31 December 2018 must be deposited by the barangay council to the bank account of the SK.
Barangay Biñan SK chairman Luigi Biraogo is complaining that Pelaez and his allies in the barangay council refuse to release the funds the SK is legally entitled to pursuant to the SK Reform Act of 2015 and the joint memorandum circular. Biraogo says that he has been requesting Pelaez and his minions to release the SK funds months ago, but his requests have been largely ignored.
Biraogo estimates the undisbursed funds at almost P2 million. That’s a lot of taxpayers’ money.
As of late September this year, Biraogo was told, albeit orally, that there are no funds available anymore for the SK.
Surprised by that disclosure, Biraogo wrote a letter dated 31 October 2019 to the barangay council demanding the release of all undisbursed SK funds. His letter was ignored.
Undaunted, Biraogo will be sending the barangay three more letters. One is a reiteration of his earlier demand for the release of the SK funds. The second requests the barangay treasurer for copies of all financial documents concerning the status of the SK funds held in trust for the SK by the barangay council. Another asks the barangay secretary to release copies of the minutes of the barangay council meetings where the SK funds have been taken up.
At least one kagawad in the barangay council agrees with Biraogo that the funds of the SK should be immediately disbursed to the SK. This kagawad warned the barangay council that the failure to comply with the law governing the release of SK funds can trigger the filing of criminal charges against the erring officials concerned.
As of this writing, no one from the barangay council is willing to answer questions about the undisbursed SK funds.
Biraogo is threatening to file criminal and administrative charges against the barangay council, as well as against the barangay secretary and treasurer, if his demands are not complied with.
Likewise, Biraogo has already invited the attention of the DILG and the Malacañang Action Center created by President Rodrigo Duterte to this matter. He is also planning to file a suit for mandamus against the barangay secretary and barangay treasurer if the said barangay officials will refuse to provide him with copies of the documents he is asking for.
Biraogo is the son of Louis “Barok” Biraogo, a public interest crusader since 1984. The elder Biraogo is known for successfully imploring the Supreme Court to declare President Benigno Aquino III’s Executive Order 1 unconstitutional. That executive order created the Philippine Truth Commission, which would have usurped the powers of the Office of the Ombudsman.