Ombudsman orders dismissal of Agusan Sur town mayor, vice mayor

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 20 Oct) – A dismissal order was slapped against Trento Mayor Johnmark Billanes of Agusan del Sur and his vice mayor, Victoria Plaza, after the Office of the Ombudsman found probable cause to indict them and four others for violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act and Technical Malversation.

In a decision issued Wednesday, the Ombudsman directed the Department of Interior and local Government (DILG) to implement within 10 days the dismissal of two officials, along with former Sangguniang Bayan members Edwin Demegillo, Pedro Mordeno and Leona Magno, and incumbent SB member Ludy Andale after being found guilty of “Grave Misconduct and Conduct Prejudicial to the Best Interest of the Service.”

Based on the Ombudsman’s decision, it said that they found irregularities in the P1-million transaction made in 2012, which was brokered by the mayor’s brother, Romeo Billanes Jr., the owner of the 7,775-sq.m. property along the national highway in Poblacion, Trento.

The lot was supposed to be the site of the proposed rice processing center, it stated.

“The Sangguniang Bayan passed a resolution to borrow P1,000,000 from the 2012 Appropriations for the Rehabilitation of the Farm-to-Market Road to acquire the lot for the proposed Rice Processing Center,” the Ombudsman said.

But it was found that there was no ordinance was passed by the SB of Trento realigning the P1 million budget and that “the land acquisition was for a different purpose from the original appropriation.”

“Insofar as the graft charge, unwarranted benefits, advantage or preference was extended by respondents to the mayor’s brother, through manifest partiality or evident bad faith, as Romeo’s property had already been identified for acquisition even prior to appraisal of the land,” the Ombudsman’s decision read.

The Ombudsman has directed the DILG to dismiss the erring officials within 10 days.

“They are also facing the accessory penalties of cancellation of eligibility, forfeiture of retirement benefits and perpetual disqualification for re-employment in the government service,” it added. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)