The ‘stranded’ Virac councilor’s issue: too hot to handle?

For months now, the Catanduanes Tribune has held back on publishing the news on the Civil Service Commission’s decision on the case of Ephraim Antonio Gianan, who was ‘stranded’ in Pasig City during the pandemic and did not report for work in Virac even when the pandemic travel restrictions were relaxed.

The CSC Regional Office No. V’s August 2, 2022 ruling said Gianan’s absences and the circumstances obtaining during the period fall under Item 3.1 of CSC Memorandum Circular No. 23, s. 2020 and are thus treated as excused absences.

In granting the appeal, CSC Director IV Atty, Daisy Punzalan Bragais ruled that the leave credits deducted against Gianan’s accumulated leave credits for those applied after March 16, 2020 and before February 14, 2022 be restored and the former councilor be paid of his salaries covering those when he was declared to have been on leave of absence without pay.

It was only a few months later that this paper learned of the decision and even then, the former councilor, a relative of the publisher-editor, politely refused the latter’s request for a copy.

With the present composition of the Sangguniang Bayan recently embroiled in an impasse on how to handle the adverse CSC decision, considering that a few of the current membership were in office at the time Gianan incurred his absences, it was only this month that the Tribune finally got hold of copies of the CSC ruling and letters exchanged between the legislative and the executive branches of the local government, and that between the municipal council and ex-Councilor Gianan.

Thus, the Dec. 21, 2022 headline story on the issue was based mostly on the CSC ruling and the letters, with no interviews conducted with Gianan and Vice Mayor Arlynn Arcilla (also a relative of the publisher-editor).

Through different channels, these two individuals expressed their disappointment and resentment over publication of the article on Gianan’s final demand that he be paid around P1.6 million in back salaries and leave credits.

One of them even asked the publisher-editor, through an intermediary, to cease publication of future articles on the issue as the initial story affected the family.

The other, describing the article as biased and one-sided, decided to pass up on the Tribune’s offer to publish his/her side of the story.

The impasse prompts us to raise this point: how else does a member of the media treat a controversy in which both sides does not wish to speak but through public documents?

Both personalities, and all elected politicians for that matter, are (or was in the case of Gianan) public officers whose actions are subject to public scrutiny and media coverage.

Thus, it feels strange and disorienting to hear of them trying to suppress or even denigrate publication of an article on their actions while in office, especially since the issue involves public funds.

The media’s abruptly ceasing to discuss the controversy would be a disservice to the public that they serve, particularly in the light of Gianan’s filing of Administrative Case No. 002-2022 at the Sangguniang Panlalawigan against the entire Sangguniang Bayan of Virac for abuse of power and conduct unbecoming of government officials.

According to a Tribune source, the provincial board’s Committee on Justice and Human Rights has already issued a summons dated Dec. 22, 2022 to the municipal council to file its reply within 15 days upon receipt.

As they say in the movies, the showdown has come to a final gunfight: either the Virac SB blinks and agrees to pay, or it gets bloodied on the nose.

So who says the local media can’t cover such a public contest on who is right or wrong?

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