FORMER Sibonga mayor and now councilor Lionel Bacaltos will be facing suspension for six months after the Court of Appeals (CA) reversed the anti-graft office's decision clearing him of liability for failure to act upon the application for business permit of his former political rival.
In a decision issued in February, the CA 18th Division said Bacaltos was found guilty of grave abuse of discretion and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of service for not acting on the application for business permit for former Sibonga mayor Nestor Ponce.
Ponce is currently the village chief of Barangay Poblacion in Sibonga, Cebu.
Ponce, who owns a prawn farm business in Barangays Simala and Bagacay in the same town, filed a complaint against Bacaltos in 2015 after his business permit application has not been acted upon.
He said aside from not acting on his application, Bacaltos also made him to submit additional requirements that were irrelevant and not required by law, under the threat of business closure.
In its 12-page decision, the CA stated that Bacaltos committed grave abuse of authority through his continued refusal to act upon Ponce's application despite receipt of the required documents.
"Adding insult to injury, respondent Mayor (Bacaltos) requested for additional documents from petitioner, some of which were not included in the checklist of requirements appearing in the Application Form for Business Permit," the decision stated.
This was not the first time Ponce had experienced difficulty applying for a business permit during Bacaltos's time as mayor.
In 2008, Ponce filed a petition for mandamus against Bacaltos after the latter refused to approve the business permit for his prawn farm.
Though the Regional Trial Court in Argao, Cebu favored Bacaltos over Ponce in its decision in 2009, the CA reversed the lower court's decision and ordered Bacaltos to act within 30 days on Ponce's application covering the year 2008.
But Ponce claimed that even with the CA's decision, Bacaltos reportedly continued to exhibit unwillingness in acting his business permi application.
In 2015, the Office of the Ombudsman-Visayas ordered Ponce and Bacaltos to submit their respective position papers.
Ponce was able to file his position paper before the anti-graft office.
But in October of the same year, the Ombudsman issued a joint resolution, dismissing the administrative charges filed against Bacaltos for lack of substantial evidence. They said Ponce did not file a position paper before them.
The Ombudsman also stated that there is nothing on record that shows that Bacaltos exercised cruelty or excessive use of authority against Ponce.
The anti-graft office's decision prompted Ponce to file a petition for certiorari before the CA.
SunStar Cebu tried to get Bacaltos' side on the matter but calls and texts to his cellphone remained unanswered as of Tuesday afternoon, March 26.
CEBU. Former Sibonga mayor Lionel Bacaltos. (SunStar file)
March 26, 2019
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