Multi-Sectoral Alliance Stops Overpriced
Bus Terminal Project in Bulan

by Luisito Panelo

      A multi-sectoral group of residents in Bulan, Sorsogon sought to stop the operation of what they believed as an “overpriced” bus terminal project by incumbent Mayor Helen De Castro.

      In an 8-page petition (docketed as Special Civil Action No. 07-351), the group asked the Regional Trial Court (Branch 65) of Sorsogon, Thursday, October 25, 2007, to “compel Mayor Helen De Castro, her agents, subordinates and all public officers and employees of the Local Government Unit of Bulan” to make public “all official records, documents and papers” pertaining to the “policies and procedures adopted” by the said local government unit in pursuance of the centralized bus terminal project.

      The petition cited Section 7, Article III of the Constitution, which mandates the local chief executive to “recognize the right of the people to information and access to official records, documents and papers” and R.A. 6713 (or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officers and Employees) which provides for “unhampered access to writings and/or official records” consistent with the policy of transparency in governmental affairs.

      The petition was filed by La Fuerza Del Pobre, a multi-purpose cooperative composed of stevedores, porters, tricycle and pedicab drivers represented by Rodolfo Gogolin, together with Bulan’s former vice mayor, Albino Guyala III, Rizal Guyala, Marilou Ong, Will Gerola, Juve Gillego, Eddie Meteoro Abraham Gersalia and Rey Lorilla who are taxpayers and residents of Bulan, Sorsogon said to be greatly affected by the bus terminal project should it pushes through.

      The bus terminal site in barangay Fabrica, according to the petitioners, is remotely situated and too distant from the municipality’s center of commerce and the residences and businesses of the “more numerous residents/taxpayers of Bulan”.  The riding public, the traders and other taxpayers of Bulan, they added, would be exposed to far greater expense and to graver risk to their personal safety, trades and businesses.

      But most of all, according to the petitioners, many of the poor townspeople would be deprived of livelihood and businesses now that a “shuttle service” to and from the terminal is underway to eventually replace tricycle and pedicab operation.  

      The bus terminal project will be funded by a bond flotation and/or bank loan in the amount of P80 million pesos, an amount equivalent to the whole of Bulan’s Annual Gross Revenue Receipt. The loan will also be secured by the internal revenue allotment (IRA) of the LGU and its component barangays.

      Considering such huge magnitude of an amount, the operation of the LGU in the delivery of basic services would be greatly imperiled should this project fail, reason why the petitioners would like to be informed of its legality and viability.

      The petitioners, however, were denied access to information by Mayor De Castro, when according to them their written request for information was ignored by the local government despite their persistence to get the documents they requested. This prompted petitioners to bring the matter to court and asked the same court to issue a temporary restraining order (TRO) enjoining the LGU concerned to “desist from operating or in any manner implementing” the bus terminal project until further order of the court.

      The continued refusal of the mayor to perform her ministerial duty to afford petitioners their right to information, according to the petition, is a “grave abuse of authority amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction” something which no right-thinking citizen should countenance.