Tagbilaran City Mayor John Geesnell Yap on Friday announced an order for the closure of small stores in a lot owned by the local government unit along Pook Pantalan pending an investigation into vendors’ allegations of harassment by rent collectors.
According to Yap, the stores were shut down temporarily as the mayor’s office and the Sangguniang Panlungsod (SP) launched a probe on alleged anomalous issues that beset the operations of the stores and the city’s rent collection.
In its initial inquiry earlier this week, the SP led by presiding officer Vice Mayor Toto Veloso found out that none of the rent paid by the vendors to collectors have reached Tagbilaran City’s coffers despite regular collections being made.
There were no records of remittances to the Tagbilaran City Treasurer’s Office from rent supposedly paid by the Pook Pantalan vendors, city lawmakers were told.
According to Jose Pamaong, the coordinator of the Urban Poor Settlers Homeowners Association, the store owners were paying rent and electricity fees to one Erwin Lumotos, a barangay councilor in the village of Cogon.
The vendors have also accused Lumotos of harassment as he allegedly intimidated them with forced evacuation on instances of late rent payment, said Pamaong.
However, none of the vendors have presented themselves before the SP and personally aired their allegation while Lumotos was also not able to join the inquiry as both parties reportedly did not receive invitations to attend.
Tagbilaran Councilor Agustinus Gonzaga, for his part, expressed concern over the closure order particularly as the vendors were not allotted relocation areas for their businesses.
According to Gonzaga, the investigations could continue even without shutting down the small businesses.
Another SP session is set to be conducted as part of the probe on the alleged harassment and to trace where the rent payments ended up.
Lumotos, the vendors and other resource persons are expected to attend the next session. (Allen Doydora)