Mayor and company cleared over public market issue-A A +A
Monday, November 15, 2010
THE Office of the Ombudsman cleared Silay City Mayor Jose "Oti" Montelibano, Vice Mayor Mark Andrew Arthur Golez, several members of the City Council, some city officials, and a private respondent of any administrative or criminal liability arising from the complaints filed by Jojo Sumiller and Jose Lindy G. Chan.
The administrative and criminal complaints stemmed from the painting of the Coca-Cola advertising colors, logo, and brand name at the two public market buildings in Silay City way back in November or December 2007.
According to the complainants, the painting made the public market appear to be the billboard of Coca-Cola.
Moreover, Montelibano allegedly approved such painting without the City Council's approval. Vice Mayor Golez, Councilors Jose Raymundo Locsin, Michael Maravilla, Ramon Jison, Warlito Go, Rosalinda Caja, Judith Gallego and April Grace delos Reyes; OIC-Market Supervisor Giovanni Guzon, OIC-General Services Office Pepito Hechanova, and OIC-City Engineers Office Sonia Cordero; and, State Auditor Benedicta Pagunsan were allegedly equally liable for either acceding to the act of Montelibano or failing to perform their respective functions in preventing Montelibano's act.
The complainants further filed a criminal complaint arising from the same act against all the respondents in the administrative complaint. Coca-Cola Sales Manager Agustin Gatuslao was included in the criminal complaint.
According to Sumiller and Chan, the respondents are criminally liable for violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act and Dereliction of Duty under Article 208 of the Revised Penal Code.
In two separate decisions, the Ombudsman stated, "Premises considered, the administrative charges against herein respondents are hereby dismissed for lack of substantial evidence."
The decisions were approved by Deputy Ombudsman for Luzon Mark Jalandon, dated June 11, 2010, but they reached the Silay City government only late last week.
The Ombudsman gave credence to Montelibano's reply that his action was motivated by good faith and that it resulted in savings of almost one million pesos for the city's coffers.
The fact that other soft drink companies and other advertisers were not prohibited from posting their own signages at the public market was also cited in the decision as proof that there was no unwarranted benefit given to Coca-Cola.
"Motelibano need not seek the approval of the Sannguniang Panlungsod about the matter of repainting as he had supervisory powers, under the Local Government Code, on all programs, projects, services and activities of the city government," the decision read.
The vice mayor and respondent councilors were likewise absolved because, in the first place, their authority was not sought. The act of the councilors in voting against the motion to conduct a legislative inquiry on the repainting does not make them liable because, according to the Ombudsman, "It's a matter of legislative prerogative on their part if they voted not to proceed with the investigation."
The city employees and the auditor were also cleared of administrative liability because they were in no position to oppose or prevent the repainting of the public market buildings.
In the criminal complaint, the Ombudsman immediately cleared Gatuslao because, aside from the fact that he did not appear to have committed a prohibited act, he is neither a government officer nor employee.
The criminal complaint was also struck down because it lacked the elements of the offenses the respondents were being charged with.
The Ombudsman cited that "it appears that said respondents have not committed prohibited acts." Further, "No undue injury was caused to the government or to other parties," the decision stated. Most importantly, it was not shown that Montelibano acted with manifest "partiality" or bias.
As to the charge of dereliction of duty, the Ombudsman said that respondents have no duty to prosecute offenses. This particular provision on dereliction of duty to prosecute offenses refers more appropriately to the chief of police, barangay captain and prosecutors, the Ombudsman said in its decision. (Butch Bacaoco)
Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on November 15, 2010.