The response of the Puerto Princesa City Council on GSMAXX workers' complaint letter. (Contributed photo)

City Hall has declined to step in to resolve an ongoing conflict between a group of workers and the private construction firm GSMAXX, which undertakes most of the city government’s infrastructure projects.

Responding to the workers’ demand that City officials investigate the incident, where hundreds of them allegedly recruited by the company to work on a project in Bulacan, ended up being stranded.

The City Council, in a letter to the workers represented by Brgy. Captain Ryan Abueme, stated that the grievance being raised by the workers was outside its jurisdiction and should instead be brought to court.

“It appears that complete redress of your grievance must be availed in a full-blown trial in a court of law, as the same appears to be a private matter. As you may well know, the Sangguniang Panlungsod only has jurisdiction to hear complaints over barangay officials, nor does the pending matter involve a city government project,” lawyer Philip Jerome Hilario, secretary to the Sangguniang Panlungsod, said.

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The Council also set aside the demand of Abueme’s group to declare GSMAXX president Sammy James Sioson “persona non grata”, noting that such action is only resorted to by the chamber “in the most extreme of circumstances.”

Abueme had exposed the alleged wrongdoing of GSMAXX, claiming it had recruited over a hundred Puerto Princesa residents to travel to Norzagaray, Bulacan on the promise of being deployed to work on a cellular tower construction project that did not materialize, resulting in their being stranded.

“Being an improper venue for the ventilation of monetary or criminal claims, the Sanggunian does not have the ability to try facts, pass judgment, and garnish properties, in order to effect restitution of civil or criminal claims against a private individual,” Hilario added.

Abueme said they have accepted the City Council’s decision. He said they will still seek out ways to go after GSMAXX, whom they claim gave them false hopes of employment in Bulacan.

“Hindi kami titigil hangga’t makuha namin ‘yong hustisya doon sa hirap at pagsira ng pangarap ng bawat isa. Pinag-aaralan at pinaghahandaan na ng aming grupo ang pagdala sa tamang venue ng aming reklamo. Tagumpay kami sa unang hakbangin na maisiwalat ang aming hinaing,” Abueme said through Facebook Messenger on Sunday.

GSMAXX denies allegations, barangay captains recruited defend company

Meanwhile, GSMAXX denied the malpractice allegations, stating that the coordinators and workers were not required to travel to Bulacan at their own expense. Company vice president Ferdinand Delera claimed that they also encountered problems with the project, which allegedly did not materialize when the coordinators arrived on site in September 2021.

“Ang usapan, or instruction is, we will send person as advanced party, para i- arrange lahat ng kailangan about the project. Ang three weeks, just the target frame. Uulitin ko ‘pag nag-ok in three weeks ok siya, but sa ngayon may mga problema pa kaya hindi pa nag i-start ang project natin,” Delera said in an interview with Palawan News on Saturday.

“Walang 200 na Palawenyo na nagrereklamo na nakasaad sa complaint nila. ‘Di ko alam, paano sa nag-come up sa figure na 200. Lahat ng mga general coordinators from Palawan, nasa 30 lang ang dalang tao from dito, the rest galing ng Luzon ‘yon. Doon ‘yon hi-nire,” he added.

Likewise, several barangay captains also spoke in defense of GSMAXX against Abueme and the complainants. Roberto Palanca, Barangay Maligaya captain and also one of those recruited to be general coordinators, stated that they were also not required to shell out money to travel to Bulacan.

“Ako boluntaryong sumama para ma-familiarize ko ang project na ito. Ang iba, kanya-kanya nang desisyon kami with our own expenses, pero about sa assurance, alam naman natin sa field ng contruction may mga proseso ‘yan,” Palanca said on Saturday.

“Wala din sinabi si Sir james na magdala kayo ng tao, pero kung magdadala sila (general coordinator), sarili niyong gastos. ‘Yon ang sinabi ni Sir James,” Matiyaga captain Allan Bayona also claimed.

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