SAN SIMON — The Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) served a suspension order against eight San Simon incumbent and former town officials on Thursday, September 21.
The order was based on the decision of the Office of Ombudsman suspending Mayor Abundio Punsalan Jr., Vice Mayor Romanoel Santos, and Councilors Irene Dagdag, Irene David, and Randell Bondoc for six-month without salary for simple neglect of duty and simple misconduct.
Former Sangguniang Bayan members Mark Macapagal, Archiebald Basilio, and Alekseyevich Vergara were also among the respondents and were ordered to pay fines equivalent to the six month salaries in lieu of the suspension.
DILG Pampanga Director Myra Moral Soriano led the implementation of the suspension order to Punsalan around 3 pm on Thursday.
Punsalan said he did not sign the order, invoking the ongoing ban on suspending elective officials during the election period.
Section 261 (x) of the Omnibus Election Code prohibits the suspension of any elective provincial, city, municipal or barangay officer without prior approval of the Comelec, “unless said suspension will be for purposes of applying the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act."
“Hindi ko po pinirmahan dahil magseseek pa ako ng legal remedies dito sa kaso. Meron po kasi kaming hawak na legal opinion from Comelec (Commission on Election) na sakop na kami ng election ban kaya iyon po ang pinapaexplain natin sa DILG,” said Punsalan after the 30-minute closed door meeting with DILG officials.
Despite Punsalan’s refusal to sign the order, the DILG posted onto the wall of the Office of the Mayor a copy of the suspension order.
In a phone interview on Friday morning, Soriano said the suspension order was already implemented and effective.
“Na-implement po ang suspension order at effective ito as soon as it was served. Hindi naman po kami mabibigyan ng instructions ng (DILG) regional at central office kung hindi pa po plantsado itong order,” she said.
A news article from Philippine News Agency published on September 14 noted that the Comelec granted the request of DILG to suspend four mayors in the country, including Punsalan, during the election period.
The Comelec clarified that the cases against the elective officials “do not involve violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, hence prior authority from the Commission is required.”
By virtue of rules of succession, Councilor Ryan Viray was ordered by DILG to assume the mayoral post during the period of suspension.
Viray said he received the DILG order on Thursday and is ready to serve the constituents of the town.
“Hindi ko po ginusto itong nangyari sa aking mga kasama sa munisipyo, actually nalungkot po ako. Pero kung ako po ay tinawag para magserbisyo, gagawin ko po para sa mga kapwa ko Simonians,” he said.