A FORMER mayor of Escalante City, Negros Occidental was found guilty of illegally firing 11 regular employees of the city in 2002, the Office of the Ombudsman said Tuesday.

The Sandiganbayan ruled that former mayor Santiago Barcelona Jr. violated Section 2 of Republic Act 6656, which protects the security of tenure of government officials and employees.

He was ordered to pay a fine of P55,000 and was permanently disqualified to hold public office.

Barcelona removed eight utility workers, two drivers, and a foreman from their jobs and did not give positions similar to their original occupations nor given preferences in the filling-up of the positions next lower in rank in the reorganization of the City Hall staff.

He claimed that the employees were unfit to work which was later disproved by the findings of the Civil Service Commission-Western Visayas.

But Sandiganbayan discovered that regular positions at the City Hall even rose to 337 from 211 after the reorganization.

"Undoubtedly, such increase by more than 50 percent in the original number of positions is significant enough to give the impression that the removal of the private complainants are (sic) in bad faith and violates their security of tenure," the decision stated.

The former mayor failed to observe due process and he didn’t show a thorough evaluation to determine who among the employees should be retained or terminated, according to the ruling.

He also repeatedly disobeyed the orders of the CSC to reinstate the terminated employees.

Section 2 of RA 6656 states that “no officer or employee in the career service shall be removed except for valid cause and after due notice and hearing."

"A valid cause for removal exists when, pursuant to a bona fide reorganization, a position has been abolished or rendered redundant or there is a need to merge, divide, or consolidate positions in order to meet the exigencies of the service, or other lawful causes allowed by the Civil Service Law," the provision said. (Ma. Monica Padillo, UST intern/Sunnex)