CATBALOGAN CITY -- The Office of the Ombudsman directed the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) to implement its administrative orders against three mayors in the Visayas.

Ordered suspended were Mayor Darell Dela Flor of Belison, Antique; and former mayors Napoleon Cuaton of Saint Bernard, Southern Leyte, and Walden Lim of Tibiao, Antique.

In three separate decisions forwarded to the DILG, the Ombudsman ordered the nine-month suspension of Dela Flor, one-year suspension of Cuaton, and three-month suspension of Lim.

It said that in case of separation from service, the penalty is convertible to a fine equivalent to the officials' salaries for the duration of their suspension.

In Dela Flor’s case, the Ombudsman found him guilty of conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service and for violation of Section 4(a) of the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees (Republic Act 6713).

Also found guilty and ordered suspended were Belison Municipal Accountant Edna Escaner and Municipal Budget Officer Leonie Galedo.

The Ombudsman found out that in 2014, Dela Flor authorized the payment of additional bonuses to municipal employees under the guise of procurement of office supplies.

To facilitate the scheme, Dela Flor, Escaner and Galedo allegedly submitted a supplemental budget with an appropriation of P471,817.30 for office supplies, which was intended to be converted as “bonuses” to employees.

Court documents also showed that Belison town had already exceeded its budget for personnel services.

The Ombudsman cited, in its decision, Section 325 (a) of the Local Government Code, which categorically sets a limit for personnel services expenditures, and that “any move geared toward providing employees with additional or extra bonus despite having exceeded PS (personnel services) limitation by using other funds not intended for the purpose is patently illegal as this violates existing law, rules and regulations.”

Cuaton, meanwhile, was once again administratively found liable for oppression/abuse of authority for consistently refusing to reinstate Gerry Mencide, a municipal employee, despite the Civil Service Commission’s finding that the termination of Mencide's employment was illegal.

In December 2016, Cuaton was also found guilty of simple misconduct and was ordered suspended for three months for illegally terminating Mencide's employment.

Lim, the third official charged by Ombudsman, was also found guilty of simple misconduct for hiring laborers for Tibiao town's water construction project despite the lack of authority from the Municipal Council and non-compliance with procurement regulations.

“As the local chief executive, respondent mayor is not only expected to know the proper procedure in procurement. He is also duty bound to follow the same, and his failure to do so amounts to transgression of the established law, rules and regulations on the matter,” the Ombudsman pointed out.

Republic Act 9184, otherwise known as the Government Procurement Reform Act, generally requires public bidding in all procurement of infrastructure, goods and services.

SunStar contacted the three mayors for their comments, but they could not be reached as of this posting Friday, February 24. (SunStar Philippines)