Cortes ‘unfazed’ by suspension rumors

Cortes ‘unfazed’ by suspension rumors
CEBU. Mandaue City Mayor Jonas Cortes.File photo

MANDAUE CITY Mayor Jonas Cortes is unfazed by rumors of a potential preventive suspension related to the cutting of mangrove trees in Barangay Paknaan, saying there is no proof that his actions were not in the city’s best interest.

“May politiko nagpaluyo o wala , wala ko nahadlok sa kaso. Wala ko mahadlok sa suspension kay, what I have said, dili ni corruption nga kaso. Ngil-ad ba diay nga ang mayor modepensa og mobarug para sa interes sa katawhan ug dakbayan?” he said during Storya Ta, a Move for the Good Governance and Transparency Forum on Friday, July 5, 2024.

(Whether or not there are politicians behind the move, I am not afraid of the case. I am not afraid of suspension because, as I have said, this is not a corruption case. Is it wrong for a mayor to defend and stand up for the interests of the people and the city?)

Complainant

Speculations on the Facebook page Mandaue Politics suggest that the Ombudsman may issue a suspension order either in July or August following a complaint by Maria Priscilla Melendres.

The complaint alleges Cortes of violating Section 3 of Republic Act (RA) 3019, or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

A separate case for oppression, gross misconduct in office, and grave abuse of authority was filed by Melendres at the Office of the President.

The allegations stem from a November 2022 project to mitigate severe flooding that affected several barangays in Mandaue City.

The project, which involved cutting mangrove trees, aimed to establish an emergency relief center in Sitio Pagatpatan in Paknaan.

In her complaint, Melendres claimed that Cortes and four city councilors (Maline Cortes Zafra, Oscar del Castillo, Jen del Mar and Cynthia Remedio) “deliberately disregarded due process” when they allegedly illegally entered a 9.5-hectare property in Paknaan that she claims ownership over and awarded the lots to informal settlers, despite a pending ejectment case.

Melendres also accused the city officials of violating environmental laws, including RA 7161 which prohibits cutting of mangroves and forest products, and the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

Melendres accused Cortes, City Administrator Jamaal James Calipayan, and City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office head Buddy Alain Ybañez of approving the cutting of mangrove trees in Barangay Paknaan near her property in November 2022.

She cited a counter-affidavit from the construction company’s president stating that the mayor authorized the mangrove cutting Denial Cortes denied any wrongdoing.

The creation of the relief channel was a lawful response to the state of calamity, intended to prevent future flooding, the mayor said.

Cortes held an emergency meeting with the City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (CDRRMC) to discuss the flooding that affected 14 barangays after the Butuanon River overflowed during heavy rains on Sept. 9, 2022.

During the meeting, the CDRRMC recommended to the City Council to place the entire city under a state of calamity to allow the city to tap calamity funds and immediately provide aid to affected families and help them rebuild their homes in safer places.

The City Council approved the recommendation to declare a state of calamity during its regular session on Sept. 12.

Two months later, the flood mitigation project began.

The project was 95 percent complete when halted due to resident complaints. Two hundred out of 300 affected families had been relocated to safer areas in Paknaan.

Cortes and city officials maintain their actions were lawful and in response to a declared state of calamity, intended to prevent future flooding and protect Mandaue residents.

Speaking also in the same forum, Calipayan said the mayor’s office has not received a copy of the formal complaint from the Ombudsman.

“We have no official copy of the complaint. We are anticipating that if we are charged by either the Office of the President or the Ombudsman, it will likely be of a criminal nature,” Calipayan said.

Cortes’ camp will file its counter-affidavit after receiving copies of the complaints, Calipayan said. / CAV

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