THE Court of Appeals (CA) reversed the decision of the anti-graft office to dismiss Naga City, Cebu Mayor Valdemar Chiong for being guilty of grave misconduct and gross neglect of duty.
In its July 5, 2019 decision, the CA’s 20th Division, led by Associate Justice Pamela Anne Abella Maxino, cleared Chiong, saying he did not commit an unlawful act when he issued a mayor’s permit to Petronas Energy Philippines, a liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) firm, in 2014.
The Office of the Ombudsman-Visayas’s decision found Chiong guilty of administrative charges, stating the latter’s move was illegal.
However, the CA’s 20th Division disagreed. It stated in its decision that Chiong could not be held liable for grave misconduct and gross neglect of duty, or gross negligence, as his guilt had never been established through substantial evidence.
“Nothing on record would show that Chiong, in issuing the subject mayor’s permit, transgressed an established and definite rule of action. Neither does the evidence present any plain and direct showing that Chiong acted with corruption, or with clear intent to violate the law, or with flagrant disregard of established rules,” a portion of the appellate court’s decision read.
The CA further stated that Chiong did not act with “manifest partiality, evident bad faith or gross negligence” when he issued a business permit to Petronas. Chiong was merely dispensing his duties in accordance to laws and existing rules, according to the appellate court.
The mayor was initially charged for graft after he issued a business permit to Petronas despite the company’s alleged failure to present a fire safety inspection certificate.
In an interview, Chiong told SunStar Cebu that he felt happy of the CA’s 20th Division’s decision to acquit him.
“From the very start, I believed that the Ombudsman’s guilty verdict against me was unfair, especially that there was no sufficient evidence provided by the complainant to support his case against me,” he said.
Chiong believes that the complaint filed against him was the result of the tough competition between Petronas and another company involved in LPG distribution. However, the returnee mayor said he could not be entirely jubilant as the criminal charges against him on the same case is still pending before the Sandiganbayan, an anti-graft court. (JKV)