MAYOR John Henry Osmeña of Toledo City, Cebu, was ordered suspended from office for one year after the Ombudsman found him guilty of grave abuse of authority.
He is also set to face trial before the Sandiganbayan after the Ombudsman found probable cause to charge him with six counts of violation of Section 3(e) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act (Republic Act 3019).
Osmeña was found guilty for refusing to release the quarterly real property tax (RPT) shares of Barangay Daanglungsod.
Records show that the barangay was supposed to receive a total of P17,733,264.80 as part of its RPT share for the period covering the last two quarters of 2014 and for the fiscal year of 2015.
The mayor, in an interview over radio dyAB, said he could not release the shares until the boundary dispute between Barangays Daanglungsod and Sangi is resolved.
He defended his action, stating that “it is his duty to protect government funds and properties. So, when his attention was called on a pending case regarding ownership of the real properties involved in the boundary dispute between the two barangays, he only thought of protecting the city’s public funds.”
But Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales said in a resolution approved on August 9 that the boundary dispute between the two barangays had long been settled.
Records showed that a decision was already issued by the City Council on August 1, 2008 and it became final and executory in 2011 after the Regional Trial Court denied the appeal of Barangay Sangi.
Under the Local Government Code, "there is no question that the SP (City Council) has the jurisdiction to settle or resolve boundary disputes."
Morales saw "bad faith" on Osmeña's part.
"Respondent’s bad faith becomes evident when despite the foregoing circumstances, [Osmeña], without basis, withheld the release of the real property tax shares of the Barangay Daanlungsod which caused the latter undue injury," the Ombudsman said.
Morales cited again the Local Government Code, which provides that "the [RPT] share of each barangay shall be released, without need of any further action, directly to the barangay treasurer on a quarterly basis within five days after the end of each quarter and shall not be subject to any liens or holdback or whatever purpose."
Morales directed the Department of the Interior and Local Government to implement the suspension order.
Osmeña said he has yet to receive a summon from the Office of the Ombudsman and the Sandiganbayan.
"Wa ko kahibaw ana. Wa gyud koy kalibutan (I don't have any idea)," he said. (SDR/With EOB of SunStar Cebu/SunStar Philippines)