FOR Lack of probable cause and substantial evidence, the Office of the Ombudsman dismissed the case against former La Trinidad Mayor Edna Tabanda.
The complaint was filed by Jude Wal, president of the Cordillera Homes–Saint Francis Community Association Inc. (CHSFAI) on January 27, 2017, after Tabanda issued stoppage orders on the company’s project.
Tabanda was charged with grave misconduct, grave abuse of authority, conduct prejudicial to the best interest of service, conduct unbecoming of a public official and gross neglect of duty in violation of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
In its decision, the Ombudsman said there is no probable cause to indict Tabanda for violation of Section 3(e) of RA 3019.
"Respondent (Tabanda) could not be considered to have acted with evident bad faith in issuing stoppage orders because there was a petition filed by the residents of the neighboring barangay on the construction activities by complainant. The stoppage orders merely directed complainant to stop the on-going activities until the issues and concerns raised by petitioners had been addressed," the order reads.
"She issued the stoppage orders in response to the petition filed by the residents of the neighboring barangays where the project was being constructed. Neither did her action in any way tarnish the image of public service or deprive the government a committed service. There is likewise no oppression as complainant was given notice and opportunities to make the necessary remedy and its development permit was never revoked,” added the order.
The resolution dismissing the case was issued on March 16, 2017, but was approved by Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales on October 12, 2017.
CHSFAI was set to develop in March 2009 a 91,101-square-meter property in Barangay Kesbeng after securing a development permit from the local council.
The development permit was cancelled on July 21, 2009 after the company failed to implement the project.
Upon completion of all the required permits and registration, CHSFAI secured a new development permit on March 10, 2015.
It also filed an application for financing under the Group Land Acquisition and Development Program of the Home Mutual Fund (Pag-Ibig Fund) amounting to P231.8 million. This was approved on March 30,2015.
On May 25, 2015, Tabanda ordered the stoppage of the development of the lot because of the petition of the residents of Wangal and Poblacion.
Tabanda issued three more orders stopping the construction of the perimeter fence for alleged violation of the National Building Code and other violations.
Wal claimed Tabanda's stoppage orders were tantamount to the cancellation of its development permit, which she could not do without the imprimatur from the local council."
"The stoppage orders are oppressive as it deprived complainant the opportunity to explain its side, it undertook fencing boundaries of the project as part of the land development component of the housing project," Wal said in his complaint.
Tabanda submitted her position paper stressing the factual and legal bases for her action saying she cannot be held administratively liable since her actions were done in the performance of her official duties mandated by the Local Government Code.
The former mayor added that the purpose of the stoppage orders was for complainant to address the issues raised in the petition, which was confirmed by the findings of DENR-MGB-CAR and the Multi-partite Monitoring Team report revealed certain violations of Wal's development permit.