THE Court of Appeals (CA) has exonerated former Daanbantayan mayor Augusto Corro from the Ombudsman’s previous ruling that he had neglected his duties in the distribution of assistance to victims of super typhoon Yolanda in 2014.
The appellate court found that the petitioner, a certain Renato Benatiro, failed to establish that Corro was negligent in his duties.
In a 19-page decision promulgated on Oct. 30, 2019, Executive Justice Edgardo delos Santos of the CA’s 18th Division wrote that Corro merely exercised his sound discretion as the chief executive and gave proper attention to a task expected of him based on the spirit of the guidelines.
In 2017, then Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales found Corro and Heide Aplece, Daanbantayan’s social welfare officer, liable for simple negligence.
The anti-graft office suspended Corro and Aplece for two months without pay. Corro lost the Daanbatayan mayoral race in 2016 by seven votes to retired police general Vicente Loot.
Since Corro was no longer in government service, the Ombudsman converted the penalty into a fine equivalent to his salary for two months.
The case stemmed from Corro’s alleged flip-flopping on who were the qualified beneficiaries of the Emergency Shelter Assistance (ESA), a financial assistance fund from the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) for Yolanda survivors.
ESA provided P30,000 for residents whose houses were destroyed by the typhoon and P10,000 for those whose houses were damaged.
At that time, DSWD tapped local government units in the typhoon-affected areas by requiring them to come up with a list of families within their jurisdiction.
In October 2014, the Daanbantayan Municipal Government submitted the names of 16,613 beneficiaries to the DSWD.
In January 2015, the DSWD released Memorandum Circular 24, which disqualified beneficiaries living in unsafe or no-build zones.
Because of the circular, Benatiro of Barangay Tapilon was declared ineligible to receive the financial assistance.
On March 25, 2015, the Mines and Geosciences Bureau issued a letter stating that “Barangay Tapilon is generally not within a danger or unsafe zone for rain-induced landslide and flooding.”
With the development, Corro wrote the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) 7 on July 30, 2015, requesting technical assistance to establish the unsafe zones as they were having difficulty in establishing the unsafe or no-build zones due to the absence of technical personnel.
On Nov. 20, 2015, Corro informed the Ombudsman that the Municipal Government suspended the distribution of financial aid to ESA beneficiaries pending the technical determination of unsafe zones by government authorities.
The Ombudsman, however, ruled that the town withheld the ESA of those residing near the shoreline pending proper identification of its danger or unsafe zones.
The CA, though, said records revealed that the distribution for Barangay Tapilon was merely suspended pending the DENR 7’s reply to Corro’s letter seeking technical assistance.
“It is also well to note that complainant Benatiro was not singled out. It was not established nor alleged that there were families, whose houses were similarly located on the beachfront, that were included in the final or updated master list. Thus, it is the court’s opinion that Benatiro failed, as well, to establish that Mayor Corro was negligent as the then mayor in distributing the ESA fund,” read a portion of the CA’s decision. (RTF)