Ombudsman suspends 2 Mindanao governors; Bukidnon’s Zubiri says suspension a mistake

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/20 Sept) – Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales has ordered the suspension of Bukidnon governor Jose Maria Zubiri Jr. for six months and Zamboanga del Norte governor Roberto Uy for one month.

In a decision dated September 19, Morales found Zubiri guilty of Grave Abuse of Authority amounting to Oppression and violation of Section 5(a) of the Code of Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees of Republic Act 6713, the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards.

The Ombudsman said the governor refused to sign the clearance and act on the request for leave commutation of complainant Carlos Ycaro, the former provincial assessor, in January 2013.

But in a statement Tuesday, Zubiri said “I am really surprised about such findings.”

”First, it was mentioned in the said statement [of the Ombudsman] that they conducted an ‘investigation’ and that last January 2013, I refused to sign the clearance and refused to act on the request for commutation of Carlos Ycaro. This finding is clearly baseless if not anomalous. If the Office of Ombudsman has indeed conducted an investigation, they should have found out that I was not the governor of the Province of Bukidnon from July 1, 2010 to June 30, 2013.

“Let me reiterate, I was not the governor of the Province of Bukidnon from July 1, 2010 to June 30, 2013. How can I sign his clearance and act on his request for commutation in January 2013 then? The proper person to sign his clearance and act on his request would have been the incumbent governor of the province, then Governor Alex P. Calingasan. Clearly, this statement has no basis at all,” he said.

Zubiri said that when Ycaro testified in open court for a case of mandamus which he filed in the Regional Trial Court of Bukidnon, he admitted that Zubiri’s name was just superimposed over the name of then Governor Alex Calingasan.

Ycaro said it was Calingasan who made such superimposition, the governor added. “I have here a certified true copy of the Transcript of Stenographic Notes, more specifically pages 19 to 21 thereof.”

The Ombudsman’s statement quoted Zubiri sa saying Ycaro could not be cleared due to the “missing chairs” which were under his accountability.

The Ombudsman said it “cannot serve as valid excuse to deny approval of his application for leave commutation, especially where he has more than 300 days in commutable leave credits.”

“Zubiri was also faulted for failing to perform the mandate of Section 5(a) of R.A. No. 6713 by completely ignoring the two communications of complainant, addressed to his office,” the decision stated.

It said that the grave abuse of authority or oppression is a misdemeanor committed by a public officer, who under color of his office, commits an act of cruelty, severity, unlawful exaction, domination or excessive use of authority.

Zubiri said the issue of “missing chairs” is “partly true” because Ycaro signed a memorandum receipt where he acknowledged that he (Ycaro) received “986 pieces of stackable folding chairs (Condura brand, color E2) amounting to P1,784,660.00 and 608 pieces of stackable gang chair (Condura brand, cover E1) amounting to P 1,466,496.00 for a total of P 3,251,156.00.”

He said an inventory done in May 2013 by seven offices of the provincial government could not find a single Condura chair

He added that Ycaro was yet to account for other items under his name, in particular “the electrification, installation and supply of equipment with the value of P 8,100,000.00. However, per actual inventory it was found that the items installed amounted only to

On Ycaro’s leave commutation, Zubiri said the Office of the Ombudsman should have given attention to Commission on Audit Circular No. 2012-001 dated June 14, 2012 which enumerates the documentary requirements for the claim of terminal leave benefits of any employee.

“Aside from the fact that I was not the proper person to act on his application for leave commutation because I was not the governor that time, there is no showing that he (Mr. Ycaro) complied with the said requirements,” the governor said.

He added that even if he was the proper authority to sign Ycaro’s clearance and act on his request “prudence and my conscience would dictate that I would rather not sign due to the fact of his ‘unaccounted’ items which are valued in millions.

The Ombudsman also ordered on Sept. 20, the suspension of Uy for a similar violation.

In a decision, the Ombudsman said the governor “failed to act upon several letters and endorsements forwarded to his office pertaining to the request for payment of back salaries of an administrative assistant, which took two months for him to inform the complainant that the claims were referred to the Provincial Legal Officer.”

“As chief executive of the provincial government, [Uy] has the duty to ensure that all executive officials and employees of the province faithfully discharge their duties and functions as provided by law,” she said.

She cited R.A. No. 6713 that states “all public officials and employees shall, within fifteen (15) working days from receipt thereof, respond to letters, telegrams or other means of communications sent by the public. The reply must contain the action taken on the request.” (H. Marcos C. Mordeno with a report from Antonio L. Colina IV/MindaNews)