Order to remove Kidapawan village chair from office put on hold

Gantuangco admitted that petitions filed by the village chair’s lawyers — which are yet to be resolved by the local court and the Office of the Ombudsman in Mindanao — are preventing him from removing from public office Poblacion chairman Joseph Biongan after a quasi-judicial body found him accountable for the fraudulent withdrawal of P2.3 million in barangay funds, as well as guilty of negligence, dishonesty, dereliction of duty, and disloyalty to the Republic of the Philippines.

The mayor’s statement aired over radio station DXND was in reply to a resolution filed last week by Kidapawan City councilor Joseph Evangelista asking why the city mayor’s office still refuses to implement the order of the quasi-judicial body.

Evangelista said people are asking why Biongan is still holding office at the barangay despite the order to remove him from his post.

On Dec. 28, 2006, the city’s Sanggunian Panlungsod that acted as the quasi-judicial body has recommended to the city mayor that Biongan be removed from public office after it found him accountable for the alleged fraudulent withdrawal of barangay funds.

After the SP issued its resolution on the case, however, Biongan’s camp questioned before the Regional Trial Court Branch 23 the authority of the quasi-judicial body in issuing such order.

Biongan’s lead counsel, lawyer Emma Ferenal, said that the SP’s decision was done in haste “and that the SP has no powers to do the same.”

On Feb. 26, 2007, Biongan’s camp filed grave abuse of authority against Councilor Dina Espina, who acted as chair of the quasi-judicial body, and other members of the council, including Vice Mayor Luis Malaluan, at the Office of the Ombudsman in Mindanao.

Last June 26, the Commission on Audit in Region 12 filed before the Office of the Ombudsman administrative charges against Biongan, members of the barangay council, treasurer of the barangay, and employees at the accounting office of the city government, for malversation of public funds through falsification of public documents and violation of Section 3 of the Republic Act 3019 or the Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

Also, the respondents were accused of dishonesty, misconduct, and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of public service.

Aside from Biongan, also included in the charge sheet were Susan Juguilon, barangay treasurer; city accountant Virgie Tamayo; employees at the City Accounting Office, including Jane Isla, Alma Pahkiat, Lily Sambuang, and Mahalito Lapined; and members of the Barangay Poblacion committee on bids and awards.

The Mindanao Ombudsman has not yet issued its opinion on these cases as of this writing.

Unless the lower court and the Office of the Ombudsman resolve those pending petitions, I can’t order that Poblacion chairman Biongan be removed from his office,” Gantuangco said.