Maasim employees mourn as old town hall burns
by Russtum G. Pelima
Maasim, Sarangani (4 August) -- Municipal employees mourned as fire razed on Tuesday the old municipal building that had been the seat of governance for 38 years.
The old building was established during the time of its first municipal government under Mayor Jaime Arizalita.
"Back to nothing," human resource management officer Alejandra Sison said.
Sison said records in the different departments can never be recovered anymore.
"Aside from appointment records that the Civil Service Office has, we are back to zero. These include unconsumed leaves for monetization and other earned benefits by the employees for so many years," Sison said.
According to a police report, the fire broke out 3:30am at the Comelec office and spread towards the other offices in the old municipal hall.
The adjacent health center was also razed just minutes after the fire started to engulf the building.
Fire trucks from General Santos City, 37 kilometers away from the Maasim Poblacion, and Kiamba municipality, arrived at 4:15am. Members of the Philippine Army's 73rd IB, barangay defense force and civilian auxiliaries assisted in putting out the fire.
"The fire has already engulfed the whole structure when we arrived so we just contained it so as not to spread to the other buildings," Sr. Insp. Renel Belonio said.
Belonio estimated the cost of infrastructural damage at P5 million.
"The fire allegedly started at the Comelec office but we are still conducting a thorough investigation as to the cause of fire," Belonio said.
Belonio said the absence of water source for fighting fire near the building made it hard for them to stop the fire. He said the existing two overhead water tanks were not designed for firefighting.
A total of 159 employees are now temporarily conducting offices at the municipal gymnasium a few meters from the burned building. Of this number, 144 are regular employees of the municipality.
"We mourn for the loss of this old building because for over three decades, it remained to be the seat of government of Maasim," Bong Tuballes said. "All the departments are having their offices in this building until today despite our having a new municipal building."
Tuballes is presently the municipal environment and natural resources officer and works at the municipal government for 18 years now.
Offices conducting operation in the old municipal building are the municipal social welfare, assessor's office, accounting, agriculture, human resource, civil registrar, health, planning, treasurer's office, licensing and Comelec.
With the smoking skeletal remains and ashes of government records, the employees managed to conduct their flag raising ceremony at 7:30am in front of the building led by Mayor Jose Zamorro.
"The more we unite as we are being challenged by this incident," Zamorro said. (Sarangani Information Office) [top]