Caloocan officials face political rift amid pandemic

Marc Jayson Cayabyab (The Philippine Star) - January 26, 2021 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — While other local government units in Metro Manila are busy preparing for the arrival of COVID-19 vaccines, Caloocan officials are grappling with a political rift amid the pandemic.

Mayor Oscar Malapitan is at odds with five members of the city council who broke away from the majority to ally with his political rival, Rep. Edgar Erice.

The councilors composing the newly formed opposition posted a video on social media alleging the overpriced purchase of 64,646 computer tablets distributed to students for distance learning.

Former majority leader Rose Mercado and her fellow councilors PJ Malonzo, Alou Nubla, Carding Bagus and Alex Mangasar said the gadgets worth P318.7 million were defective in terms of internet connectivity and battery life.

They also slammed the administration of Malapitan for the delayed distribution of computers months after the start of online classes.

In the video entitled “Mata sa Mata,” the councilors questioned the value of the Cosmos 7 Cherry mobile tablet at P4,930 each, which they alleged was smaller in size but more expensive than the Cherry Mobile Superion S2+ at P3,699.

City hall could have saved money if it purchased the cheaper tablet at P239.1 million for the same number of units, they said.

During the flag raising rites yesterday, city administrator Oliver Hernandez accused Erice and his allies of politicking.

Hernandez denied that the gadgets were overpriced, adding that the procurement underwent bidding.

He also dismissed the councilors’ allegations that residents need to pay for the tablet if they lose or damage it.

In his speech, Malapitan accused Erice and his allies of politicking.

Malapitan’s son, Rep. Dale Malapitan, will run for mayor in next year’s elections. Erice is also eyeing the mayoralty post.

“Let us stop politicking. We still have one and a half years to go,” Malapitan said.

The Caloocan government is planning to procure 600,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine.

City hall is also in talks with Johnson & Johnson for a possible purchase of vaccines manufactured by its Belgium-based pharmaceutical division Janssen Pharmaceutica.

Malapitan has formed a task force for the designation of vaccination teams for the rollout.

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