OCCIDENTAL LEYTE Bar Association (OLBA) president Atty. Joy Mejia-Romero said that around 10 members of their group have already signified their intention to help Yolanda victims in the city, who are seeking the services of lawyers to notarize their affidavits of undertaking in relation to the release of the Emergency Shelter Assistance (ESA).
This was her response to the appeal of Councilor Vincent Rama, chairman of the committee on social welfare, and Atty. Bennet Pongos Jr., to help the beneficiaries by notarizing their affidavits for free.
Romero, who appeared before the city council during their caucus on Thursday afternoon, April 30, said while they were amenable to the proposal, she said the city should make a formal request on the matter so that it can be calendared for emergency board meeting.
Atty. Romero, however, added that they would have to limit the number of affidavits they will notarize in a day’s time.
The lady lawyer said that on that day alone, she had already notarized around 30 affidavits. This is aside from the other lawyers who have signified their services for free.
Atty. Romero said that hundreds of people trooped to the Bulwagan ng Katarungan that day, April 30, to have their affidavits notarized either at the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO), the city or provincial prosecutor’s office. They are expecting more people to come when office resumes on Monday.
She emphasized that while most of them were amenable to the request of the city council, they would want to have a system in place so as not to jeopardize their regular work load. “We also have to work for a living,” she said, aside from attending court hearings that are already scheduled and taking time to meet with paying clients.
The affidavit is a requirement of the Technical Working Group that was composed by Mayor Edward Codilla to ensure that those who will receive the ESA are qualified under the guidelines.
The TWG was composed after the masterlist of beneficiaries was released and found containing the names of unqualified recipients, including the mayor’s brother. The matter has already reached the attention of Social Welfare Secretary Corazon “Dinky” Soliman.
Atty. Francis Pepito, city administrator, told the council on that same afternoon that they came up with this requirement to discourage those who are not qualified from trying to get the assistance, under pain of perjury.
He even claimed that there were already some people who volunteered that their names are dropped, because they did not want to be criminally liable.
Pepito claimed he had already broached the subject matter with the Public Attorney’s Office, but added he would ask the barangays to stop distributing the affidavits yet, considering the sheer number of people. He said they would again meet to find a systematic way to handle the notarization issue.
The ESA masterlist that the City Government wants funded contains some 52,000 names. It is not yet clear if the number would reduce if the names of unqualified beneficiaries are delisted.
Atty. Romero said that even if all OLBA members committed to notarize the affidavits for free, it would take months before all can be notarized.
OLBA, she said, has currently 27 members practicing in the city, aside from the public lawyers. If all would agree to notarize 20 affidavits a day for free, it would take almost three months to notarize all 52,000.
On the other hand, Vice Mayor Toto Locsin Jr., along with Dr. Mayong Rodriguez and councilor Tommy Serafica, profusely thanked OLBA for their civic spirit. By Lalaine M. Jimenea