BAGUIO

Councilor takes over as Bangued mayor

COUNCILOR Joaquin Enrico Valera Bernos is set to take over the mayoralty post of Bangued in Abra following the dismissal of the town mayor and suspension of the vice-mayor.

In a decision released June 24, 2019, the Office of the Ombudsman ordered the dismissal of Mayor Dominic Valera over grave misconduct charges that stemmed from conflict of interest issues.

The decision stated Valera was also liable for conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service for using his authority in influencing several municipal transactions, which tapped his and his relatives' service center and printing shop.

In the complaint, Valera was accused of facilitating contracts with Abra Petron Service Center, managed by his wife and Vice Mayor Mila Valera, and DMJS Tarpaulin Printing Service, owned by their daughter Ma. Sylvia Valera-Go.

The municipality was found to have conducted at least 12 transactions with Abra Petron from January 2015 to April 2015 worth P1.171 million, while six deals were entered with DMJS amount to P93,876.

Mila, the vice-mayor, was handed a one year suspension without pay, while municipal accountant Henry Bodaño, municipal treasurer Romie Turqueza, and budget officer Amelia Bersamira were all dismissed from public service and perpetually disqualified from holding any public office.

Valera's and the municipal officials' civil service eligibilities were also stripped by the Ombudsman, and they were also barred from taking further civil service examinations.

All of them will not receive any retirement benefit.

Mila supposedly had a lower sanction because the approval of contracts with the two companies does not require her authority.

"It is undisputed that Dominic and Mila own Abra Petron and DMJS is owned by their daughter Sylvia and their son-in-law Jay. The municipality of Bangued had a series of transactions with the said companies, and the questioned transactions were made with the assistance of respondents Bersamira, Bodaño, and Turqueza," the Ombudsman's ruling said.

"This office finds sufficient bases to hold respondent Dominic administratively liable. It is glaring from the records that he used his position or office to ensure that the Municipality of Bangued would procure gasoline, oil, and lubricant from Abra Petron," it added.

The Ombudsman also refuted claims by the Valera couple that they are included in the exceptions under Section 5(a) of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, which provides circumstances where relatives of elected officials may be exempted from charges, if the business has been involved with the government prior to election.

They insisted that the provision only applies to the President, Vice President, Senate President and House speaker.

They also noted that if suspensions and dismissal orders cannot be implemented because the accused have already resigned or their terms have ended, the penalty would be converted to a fine of a one year worth of salaries for Valera, Bodaño, Turqueza, and Bersamira, and six months worth for Mila.

This, however, would not apply to Valera who was recently re-elected as Bangued mayor in the 2019 midterm elections.

Valera edged his opponent and PDP-Laban bet Ryan Luna by almost 16,000 votes, while Mila was elected vice-mayor, leading Chari Bersamin by over 8,500 votes.


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