Erwin Lomotos, whose name has been dragged into the Pook Pantalan vendor rent controversy, finally issued on Monday a statement denying allegations hurled against him after previously skipping three Tagbilaran City Sangguniang Panlungsod (SP) inquiries into the issue.
Lomotos, in a statement to the SP, dismissed as “mere hearsay” accusations indicating his involvement in an allegedly anomalous collection of nearly a year’s worth of rent from vendors operating within a Tagbilaran City government-owned property.
Jose Pamaong, the coordinator of the Urban Poor Settlers Homeowners Association, has told the Tagbilaran City Council that Lomotos who is a barangay councilor has been collecting vendors’ rent payments, which city lawmakers found out to be unaccounted for.
“My activities at the Pook Pantalan are not only within the bounds of the law but are also ethical,” said Lomotos.
The barangay councilor’s statement was relayed to the SP as he excused himself from the fourth round of investigations into the issue which was also snubbed by Pamaong and the port area vendors.
“Unless a verified complaint against me by a person with direct personal knowledge, I hereby defer to any formal proceedings that may be instituted,” Lomotos said.
Meanwhile, the Philippine Ports Authority clarified that the vendors were paying rent to the PPA from 2013 to 2017.
The lot only became a property of the Tagbilaran City government starting January 2017 after the approval of the port delineation zone, said PPA Tagbilaran manager Engr. James Gantalao.
The port official’s statement addressed previous queries of SP members who were initially unable to trace where the rent payments were remitted as the Tagbilaran Treasurer’s Office had noted that it has not received any amount from Pook Pantalan vendors.
According to Gantalao, monthly rent for spaces at Pook Pantalan was P36 per sqm during the administration of the PPA.
The agency also issued permits to operate to the vendors including Lomotos who also rented a space in the area, said Gantalao.
However, after the property was turned over to the city, Gantalao had no more knowledge on who carried out the rent collection.
For his part, City Hall business and licensing head Samuel Belderol said that his office has been issuing special permits to vendors for the price of P600 per month, but noted that he is unaware of who is in charge of collecting rent.
During Monday’s proceedings, Tagbilaran Councilor Agustinus Gonzaga who chairs the SP’s committee on human rights justice and labor said that investigations will continue despite the absence of Lomotos.
Gonzaga suggested to refer the issue to the SP’s committee on public accountability to verify where this year’s rent collection ended up.
The councilor then also expressed curiosity on why the vendors who first made the allegations have suddenly become inactive in the SP’s proceedings after they missed the latest investigation. (A. Doydora)