3 Mindanao mayors ordered dismissed from service by Ombudsman

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 5 Nov) – The Office of the Ombudsman has ordered the dismissal from service three mayors in Mindanao, along with 27 other local officials, who are also perpetually barred from holding public office.

The Ombudsman ruled that these public officials were dismissed for violations of grave misconduct, serious dishonesty, gross neglect of duty, and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service.

The three dismissed mayors are Oscar Moreno of Cagayan de Oro City, Vicente Fernandez of Matanao in Davao del Sur, and Mamintal Adiong of Ditsa-an Ramain in Lanao del Sur.

In a decision approved last October 6, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales held Moreno liable for grave misconduct for violation of Republic Act 7160, also known as The Local Government Code, after he reportedly entered into an agreement with Ajinomoto Philippines without prior authorization from the City Council.

Based on the agreement, Ajinomoto was supposed to pay a total of P2,924,428 as its local business tax deficiency. But an agreement was reached with a settlement of only P300,000.

Along with Moreno, Glenn C. Bañez, officer-in-charge of the Treasurer’s Office, was also dismissed from service.

“The Office of the Ombudsman ruled that the approval of the agreement by the court cannot, in any way, legitimize the acts of Moreno and Bañez,” the statement reads.

In a press conference in Cagayan de Oro Thursday afternoon, Moreno said the Ombudsman’s order was “a serious miscarriage of justice,” considering it did not take into account his counter affidavit denying the accusations.

Moreno’s camp uploaded his reply to the Ombudsman’s order in a two-minute and 57-second video on YouTube.

“The [Ombudsman’s] order was very clear that I did not file my counter affidavit. Obviously the Ombudsman’s investigators did not take a look into my counter affidavit. They missed out my counter affidavit,” Moreno stressed.

“I have no knowledge of it. I have not approve it and have not taken part of it,” he added.

Moreno said he has filed his counter affidavit asserting his innocence to the transaction contrary to the claims of the Ombudsman.

He said the Ombudsman’s decision cleared him of charges of grave abuse of discretion but held him liable for grave misconduct.

“The penalty of dismissal and disqualification from holding public office is too harsh, cruel and excessive considering my reply to the charges was not even read,” Moreno said.

He told his detractors that they will not succeed because the “rule of law will succeed.”

The mayor said that they will seek a temporary restraining order from the Court of Appeals, along with the motion for reconsideration which has to be filed before the Office of the Deputy Ombudsman Mindanao.

On October 5, the Ombudsman held Mayor Fernandez liable for grave misconduct. He was reportedly continuously discharging his duties – such as issuing office orders, business permits and appointments – and signing documents while he was detained for allegedly masterminding the killing of a journalist.

Aside from grave misconduct, a case for violation of Article 177 of the Revised Penal Code (Usurpation of Official Functions) was filed against Fernandez.

Last Sept. 17, the Ombudsman ruled that Mayor Adiong committed grave abuse of authority, grave misconduct and oppression “for ordering the burning of a truck” owned by JERA General Construction, which was hired by Lanao del Sur Electric Cooperative, Inc. (LASURECO) “to install concrete electric posts and distribution lines in the municipality.”

There had been witnesses identifying Adiong as the one who ordered the burning of the truck.

Aside from the three dismissed mayors, the Ombudsman also indicted former Cagayan de Oro Mayor Vicente Emano, Tandag City Mayor Alexander Pimentel and Mayor Diosdado Pallasigue of Isulan, Sultan Kudarat.

Along with them are four vice mayors and 30 other local officials in Mindanao for various charges ranging from RA 3019, malversation, failure to liquidate cash advances and irregularities in the procurement process.

Emano allegedly refused to implement the final and executory decision issued by the Civil Service Commission (CSC) that ordered to reinstate Leonor Esparcia to the post of Administrative Assistant III.

“On September 22, the Office of the Ombudsman found probable cause to indict former Mayor Emano for his willful refusal to implement a final and executory decision of the Civil Service Commission, in violation of the Revised Administrative Code of 1987,” the statement reads.

Pimentel, meanwhile, violated Section 3(e) of RA 3019, also known as the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, for refusing to pay Mario Cuartero, member of the City Council, an amount of P485,369 “representing the latter’s salaries, allowances and bonuses for the period July 2010 to June 2011.”

The Ombudsman also ruled that Pallasigue violated Sections 3(e) and 3(f) of RA 3019 “for willfully and deliberately refusing to implement the return to work order, issued by the [Civil Service Commission] in favor of the Municipal Planning and Development Coordinator Elias Segura, Jr. in March 2014.”

“He was found to have acted with manifest partiality and evident bad faith in refusing to implement lawful orders from competent authorities without justifiable cause,” the statement reads.

In an interview on Thursday, Deputy Ombudsman for Mindanao Rodolfo Elman said the aggrieved parties can still file for a motion for reconsideration to his office.

“The aggrieved party who has been dismissed from the service has the remedy of filing a motion for reconsideration or filing before the Court of Appeals an appeal, and of course, until such time this appeal is resolved by the proper authority, it means the decision has not yet attained finality,” he said.

“The provision of law does not yet apply. What the law prohibits is the person who has been perpetually disqualified, meaning a decision that has already become final and executory,” he said.

He added that the Ombudsman is impartial with her decision whether it is election season or not, for as long as there is sufficient evidence to criminally charge public officials. (With reports from Froilan Gallardo)