Ombud clears mayor, 3 other town officials

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Monday, August 18, 2014


TEN days after Dumanjug Mayor Nelson Garcia was suspended for an administrative case, the Office of the Ombudsman-Visayas dismissed the criminal complaint filed by Vice Mayor Efren Guntrano Gica against him and three other municipal officials.

Luanne Ivy Cabatingan, graft investigation and prosecution officer II, cleared Garcia, designated acting Sangguniang Bayan (SB) secretary Emmylou Cabonilas, municipal planning and development coordinator and acting human resource management officer Rodulfo Fernandez Jr. and municipal social welfare and development acting officer Luzviminda Melegrito from violation of Sec. 3 of RA 3019, as amended Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

The case came after Garcia designated Cabonilas as acting SB secretary on June 25, 2013 through Memorandum No. 21, following the resignation of Victor Tan Jr. as SB secretary.

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Gica, earlier, said Garcia allegedly usurped the power of the vice mayor when the mayor designated a new SB secretary.

The Office of the Ombudsman pointed out that the validity of the designation of Cabonilas appointment as SB secretary should be duly determined by the Civil Service Commission (CSC).

Whose call?

The resolution says that the validity and legality of the municipal ordinance, which created the personnel selection board (PSB), “lies with the proper court of law.”

“Furthermore, to also proceed with the present case would involve making determination on legal questions, which this Office has no jurisdiction or authority to resolve,” the resolution read.

Aside from the criminal complaint, a pending administrative case of grave abuse of authority was filed by Gica before the Provincial Board over the same violation.

Garcia was suspended last April 11 by Cebu Gov. Hilario Davide III. The suspension was lifted 60 days after.

The criminal case was resolved on April 21 and was approved by Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales.

The resolution said that when Gica sat as vice mayor, he noticed that an SB secretary was not properly appointed.

Gica sought the guidance of the CSC regarding the process of the appointment.

He sent notices to Fernandez and Melegrito informing them that the Personnel Selection Board would convene on Aug. 29.

The two respondents appeared but allegedly refused to participate upon the instruction of Garcia.

Another notice was sent to them on Sept. 4 but Fernandez allegedly ignored the notice.

After he once again sought for guidance, Gica was then advised by CSC regional office to proceed for the appointment and just submit a justification why the PSB was unable to deliberate on the matter.

Gica appointed Nerio Aquino as SB secretary on Sept. 5.

But Aquino was not able to perform his duties as Cabonillas refused to turn over the post.

In his counter affidavit, Garcia denied the allegations of Gica, saying Section 80 (a) of the Local Government Code justifies his acts.

He said that he just designated Cabonillas to the position but did not appoint her.

He said Ordinance 3 series of 2013 creates the PSB and it was not indicated that Gica is the chairman of the board.

Garcia said the CSC 7 invalidated the appointment of Aquino in a letter last Nov. 5 for failure to comply with the requirement for a valid appointment.

In Gica’s reply-affidavit, he said Ordinance 3 could only take effect once it is approved by the CSC and respondents knew that such ordinance had not yet been approved.

During the conference called by the Ombudsman, CSC advised the respondents that Aquino’s appointment “was effective until disapproved by the CSC and that he was entitled to his salary.”

The resolution read that Aquino’s appointment as SB secretary is under reconsideration/appeal with the CSC.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 19, 2014.

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