Zamboanga del Norte town mayor denies murder allegation

By Gualberto Laput

June 26, 2018, 9:45 pm

Mayor Flora Villarosa of Siayan, Zamboanga del Norte, on Tuesday denies accusations hurled against her as she answers questions in an interview with the Philippine News Agency. (Photo by: Gualberto M. Laput)


SIAYAN, Zamboanga del Norte--The town mayor here has denied any hand in the murder of her own relative because of a supposed land dispute.

Mayor Flora Villarosa on Tuesday said she has been shaken by the accusation, even as she vowed to face the accusation "with clean conscience."

Villarosa said she was compelled to deny the allegation following a radio commentary alleging that she was behind the death of Restituto Sasuman, a relative, who was killed sometime in September 2016 at a remote spillway in this town's Barangay Dinuyan. Sasuman's house in the town proper was also burned down.

Based on reports reaching her, Villarosa said the radio commentator had used the affidavits of Sasuman's nephew and sister, naming her as the victim's enemy.

Villarosa explained that the suspicion may have stemmed from the land "on which Retituto Sasuman was an informal settler." She said the land was owned by the Benlot family, which donated it to the local government for the construction of a diagnostic center shortly after she became mayor in 2010.

She recalled that in a dialogue, Restituto Sasuman agreed to vacate the land.

"He demolished his house but later, I don't know why, he put it up again. That prompted us to demolish it because the construction of the diagnostic center was already underway," she told the Philippine News Agency.

The deadlock led to both sides going to court - Restituto Sasuman accused Villarosa of illegally demolishing his house while the local government of Siayan, through the mayor's office, asked for a court eviction order.

Villarosa said the affidavits naming her as the possible culprit in Sasuman's death were mere "insinuations."

"But why should I put myself to such grave demonic act over a piece of land that I do not even own? It's beyond logic," Villarosa said, noting that the case was already up for court ruling.

Besides, the mayor said she has built a "very good reputation as mayor" and that she didn't want to destroy it "over unsubstantiated allegations."

In 2009 Siayan was named the poorest municipality, based on data from the Philippine Statistics Authority.

"Our poverty incidence was 97.5 percent or for every 10 Siayanons, 10 were living below the poverty line," Villarosa told PNA.

She said that most of her people were Subanen farmers who were planting corn for a living. She got an idea of organizing cooperatives in Siayan's 22 barangays, where residents sell their corn.

Since starting the intervention nine years ago, the mayor said their survey revealed that poverty incidence has been reduced by half, and food shortage affecting 25.22 percent of households in 2008 went down to 1.17 percent. (PNA)