Jail guards in exile

By Jolene Bulambot
Cebu Daily News
Last updated 02:02pm (Mla time) 07/06/2007

CEBU, Philippines—Instead of carrying shotguns, Cebu provincial jail guards who are considered “undesirables” by the Capitol end up in farm lots planting corn.


The exile may be indefinite.


“It’s really degrading,” said one guard in Cebuano. He started his new duties this week in Sudlon, Cebu City.


“We are all regular employees. I don’t think it’s fair that they treat us like this. We are more like inmates now.”


He was one of 41 jail personnel, including a nurse and office-based staff, who were reassigned to the Provincial Agriculturist’s Office in a memo issued by Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia last Monday, her first working day of her reelected term.


The 41 employees are under investigation for “electioneering”, dishonesty and other offenses.


Some of the guards said they were in trouble because they were suspected of campaigning against Garcia in the last May 14 polls.


While rain fell yesterday, the exiled jail personnel continued to push rakes and shovels to till the soil in a government-owned lot of the provincial office of the Department of Agriculture in barangay Sudlon II.


“Manong Ben”, another guard in his 50s, said he collapsed last Tuesday because of the heat but forced himself to report for farm duties despite having a heart condition because he was afraid of losing his job.


Some guards said they hoped the Civil Service Commission (CSC) or other government agencies would look into their case, because it wasn’t clear how long they would be “punished” by doing physical labor and menial jobs.


A memorandum dated July 2 signed by Governor Garcia said: “In the exigency of the service, you are hereby reassigned to the Provincial Agriculturist’s Office…. For strict compliance.”


No length of time was mentioned for the transfer.


“We are so demoralized. I collapsed because of the heat but what can I do, I have to report to work,” said Manong Ben. He denied campaigning against the governor in the last election.


“How can we do that when we know it’s a violation and we have been supporting the governor because we believe in her leadership,” he said.


Civil service


CSC Assistant Regional Director Edita Lozano yesterday told Cebu Daily News her office would look into the matter.


Although the commission usually acts on verified complaints filed in their office, in this case the CSC would send a team to check the jail guards’ working condition, she said.


She said in cases where regular government employees are assigned to do “menial jobs”, there must be a “mutual agreement” between parties and such assignment should be temporary.


“We will have to check on that. We don’t have all the facts now. We will conduct interviews and visit them. In cases like these, there must always be that agreement and the employees must be notified of their reassignment. It must also be done in the exigency of service,” she said.


Lozano said the employees could file a complaint with the Capitol’s grievance committee about their working conditions. The CSC could also conduct a conciliation proceeding between the concerned employees and Capitol officials, she said.


“If they are willing to file a complaint before our office instead of going to the grievance committee, we can conduct a conciliation proceeding. As of this time, I won’t comment further. We will check on them,” she said.


Capitol security consultant Byron Garcia who manages the provincial jail said all except two of the 41 jail personnel received the governor’s memorandum issued July 2.




Garcia said the 41 personnel were banned from entering the CPDRC while their cases for electioneering, dishonesty and violations of Capitol policies are being investigated.


“For three years they were given ample time to shape up but they are incorrigible,” he said.


“They are not even fit for the job. If they want to put up a fight, let’s get ready to rumble.”


He said he welcomed any investigation and would defend the Capitol’s decision to transfer the jail personnel to barangay Sudlon.


Garcia said most of these employees were hired as part of past “political accommodations” and had failed the series of examinations for I.Q., psychiatric and personal development conducted to determine their competence.


Asked how long the transfer to farm duties would last, Garcia said the period was indefinite.


In the meantime, the CPDRC personnel will till corn plots as part of the “Maisan ng probinsya” project of the Garcia administration.


Regional Director Pedro Noval of the Department of Interior and Local Government in a separate interview said the governor as the appointing authority of the province has the power to assign employees to certain tasks other than their original assignments.


“I don’t want to encroach on the jurisdiction of Civil Service Commission. What I can say is that the governor being the appointing authority of the province has the power to assign certain task to the employees if it’s necessary to attain her over-all objectives and goals,” he said.


With Suzzane Salva-Alueta


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