DILG asks 16 mayors to explain absence during deadly Typhoon Ompong

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 21) — The Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) has asked 16 regional mayors to explain their absence during the onslaught of Typhoon Ompong.

DILG issued show cause orders against nine mayors from Cagayan Valley and seven from the Cordillera Administrative Region — the areas badly hit by Ompong. The orders are expected to be released on Friday.

"The Department has given the said mayors five days from receipt to comment and explain on the matter and inform the DILG on the actions their respective offices have undertaken with regard to the recent calamity that affected their respective areas," DILG officer in charge Undersecretary Bernardo Florece said in a statement.

The police on Friday said 95 people died due to Ompong, with 79 deaths recorded in Cordillera and 10 in Cagayan Valley.

It is unclear if the DILG probe includes Cagayan officials who were seen at the Malacañang Palace on September 14 — the eve of the Ompong's landfall in the Isabela-Cagayan area. Palace officials said their visit was scheduled long ago and that Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea accommodated them since President Rodrigo Duterte was in Davao City.

DILG Assistant Secretary and Spokesperson Jonathan Malaya said the public officials will be given due process, but they will not hesitate to recommend sanctions if the investigation results prove the local government chiefs' negligence.

DILG earlier said it could suspend erring mayors while the Ombudsman may dismiss them from public service if found guilty of absenteeism and negligence of duty.

Meanwhile, the Palace wants mayors found guilty of abandoning their constituents Ompong to be severely punished.

"Sang-ayon po tayo na dapat patawan ng pinakamabigat na parusa yung mga mayor na missing-in-action sa panahon na pinaka-kinakailangan sila ng kanilang mga kababayan," Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a Palace briefing on Thursday.

The Cagayan Valley and CAR are among the areas hardest hit by Ompong. Police said at least 74 people died from landslides, flash floods, and other deadly incidents caused by the powerful typhoon. This number could go up, as rescuers search for 47 more people buried in Barangay Ucab in Itogon, Benguet. They have so far recovered 23 bodies. A landslide buried the bunkhouse-turned-church where small-scale miners and their families sought refuge as Ompong battered northern Luzon on September 22.