GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 6 March) – A Regional Trial Court (RTC) has granted a quo warranto petition seeking the removal of incumbent Koronadal City Mayor Eliordo Ogena due to an administrative conviction decided by the Supreme Court (SC) in 2016.
In a six-page decision issued on Thursday (March 5), RTC Branch 42 Judge Jordan Reyes ruled Ogena disqualified from holding office as his candidacy for mayor in the May 13, 2019 elections should have been nullified after being found guilty by the SC for an administrative offense involving moral turpitude.
He found the respondent guilty of “unlawfully holding and exercising the office of the mayor of Koronadal City” and declared him “ousted and removed.”
“The position of the Office of the Mayor of Koronadal City is hereby declared vacant,” Reyes ruled.
The court decided in favor of the quo warranto petition filed on Aug. 29, 2019 by incumbent Koronadal City Vice Mayor Peter Miguel, under special civil case number 096-42, which mainly questioned Ogena’s qualification as mayoral candidate.
Miguel, a former three-term mayor of Koronadal City, cited in his petition that Ogena was ineligible to run for mayor based on Section 40 of the Local Government Code of 1991, which sets the grounds for disqualification of those running for local elective posts.
He said Ogena, a lawyer, was deemed disqualified under Section 40a as he was found guilty and “sentenced by final judgment of an offense involving moral turpitude” by the SC.
The SC decision, which was issued on Feb. 2, 2016, stemmed from a complaint filed in 2006 against Ogena before the Integrated Bar of the Philippines for falsification of documents over a land-related case.
The High Court said Ogena was negligent in the performance of his duty as a notary public for failing to “require the personal presence of the signatories of the documents and proceeded to notarize the aforementioned documents without the signatures of all the parties.”
It said the accused failed to “comply with the most basic function that a notary public must do — to require the parties to present their residence certificates or any other document to prove their identities.”
The court said Ogena was “liable for such negligence, not only as a notary public but also as a lawyer” and had “engaged in unlawful, dishonest, immoral or deceitful conduct.”
He was suspended by SC from practicing law for two years and permanently barred from being commissioned as notary public.
In his response to the quo warranto case, Ogena said Miguel’s contention that his disqualification from being a notary public and the administrative sanction issued by the SC constitutes moral turpitude “is without legal basis and not supported by any jurisprudence.”
He sought for the dismissal of the petition, citing Miguel was not the proper party to seek such remedy as he run and won as vice mayor in the 2019 elections, and “has no right to the post as mayor” after just completing his third and final term.
But Judge Reyes upheld that Ogena’s administrative case involved moral turpitude based on the SC’s findings that the respondent “engaged in unlawful, dishonest, immoral or deceitful conduct,” and the decision being final and executory.
He said Miguel has standing to question the qualification of the mayor-elect, both as a taxpayer and the person who stands to benefit from the removal of the incumbent mayor.
Reyes upheld that Ogena was disqualified to run for mayor based on the provisions of Section 40 of the Local Government Code.
“Since he was not qualified nor eligible to run for the elective office of Mayor from the very beginning, his election, proclamation and assumption to the Office of Mayor of Koronadal City therefore, must be declared as null and void,” he cited.
In issuing the decision, Reyes cited the SC’s ruling that “qualification should precede authority” based on the quo warranto case against ousted Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.
In a radio interview, Miguel said it was his moral responsibility to seek such remedy and “not allow such wrong from continually happening.”
He urged residents to remain calm and refrain from overreacting or resorting to violence over the matter.
“We are following the (legal) processes and will not force this. It should be business as usual (at the city government),” he said.
Ogena confirmed that the court ruling has already been served to him and he has 15 days to file a motion for reconsideration or a certiorari.
He said he disagrees with the court’s decision, noting that the administrative penalty meted by the SC did not include barring him from running for any elective position.
The mayor said he is confident that the law and jurisprudence will eventually side with him and that the “rule of law and justice” will prevail in the end.
“In the meantime, our residents should not worry because I am still the mayor. This is not final and executory,” he said. (MindaNews)