Tuesday July 17, 2018

Seares: Suspending or sacking mayors

THE town or city mayor who is suspended or dismissed usually whines that he is a “victim of politics,” persecuted by political enemies. A routine, standard, stock response when he is charged, which may turn into a shriek when he is removed from office.

Politically motivated, driven by the rival’s hostility? Of course. Misconduct is brought out in the open and raised as a complaint at the public forum almost always by the adversary. It’s a convenient tool in most politicians’ arsenal.

Bringing it on

What must instruct mayors though is that often they bring these cases on themselves through reckless disregard for rules and the law, shutting out legal advice, arrogance of power, vengefulness that gives opposition no quarter and, of course, filling up the campaign chest.

If they are more careful and clear-headed, there will be slim chance for the complaint to evict them prematurely from office.


Look at recent cases of misbehavior by mayors that turned out badly for them:

[] A Toledo City mayor was suspended for one year for refusal to remit P17.733 million real property tax shares of a barangay. The ombudsman’s Aug. 9 resolution suspending him and indicting him on six counts of “corrupt” practices called it “bad faith.”

Why did he insist on not paying the barangay’s own money when it was due them? Did city lawyers not advice him of the consequence? “Bad faith” may have been caused by hubris and meanness.

[] Husband and wife in Aloguinsan, Cebu who both served as mayor, one after the other, last January were dismissed and barred perpetually from public service. The municipal government in 2010 made unauthorized purchases from the bakery owned by the couple. Plain conflict of interest, a basic “no-no” in government that often leads to prosecution.

[] A mayor in Dumanjug, Cebu was dismissed last November on the tampering of a receipt for restaurant food, the figure P11,435 altered to 21,435. The ombudsman considered it grave misconduct although the amount, to politicians, was pittance.

At best, the mayor was negligent in not protecting his document. His supporters said he was victim of a frame-up, which investigators rejected. At worst, he or an aide changed the amount.

Common causes

Look again: could the causes that brought them down not be stubbornness, ignorance of the law, negligence or plain disregard of what is right and lawful? Be it stealing or avoiding being framed up for the theft, skill or savvy is required.

Knowing that his enemies are watching his every move, the mayor is expected to be cautious. His question should be, Can we defend this before the ombudsman, maybe more immediate than, Can we defend this at Freedom Park or the town plaza?

Pulling strings

Results could be worse, especially if the political enemy has strings he can pull at political offices, such as the office of the governor or the president. The sanction could come more swiftly or be more ugly and untimely, such as just when the election is near.

And again, politics has a lot to do with cases filed against mayors and other public officials. But it’s b.s. of an excuse, more so when there’s evidence the mayor really deserves to be strung out of office.