Thursday, June 16, 2011

Two nueva ecija mayors suspended by the Ombudsman

CABANATUAN CITY, Nueva Ecija, June 17, 2011-Two municipal mayors here in Nueva Ecija has preventively suspended for 60 days by the Office of the Ombudsman and were slapped administrative complaints by their respective subordinates for alleged violation of civil service rules and regulations.

Meted the preventive suspension without pay were San Isidro Mayor Cesario Lopez Jr. of San Isidro and Talugtug Mayor Quintin Caspillo Jr. where the Department of the Interior and Local Governments (DILG), which was tasked by the Ombudsman to implement the suspension, installed Vice Mayors Edgardo Paez and Floro Pagaduan Jr. as acting mayors of San Isidro and Talugtug, respectively.

Dr. Abraham Pascua, DILG provincial director for Nueva Ecija and lawyer Myron Cunanan, DILG regional legal officer for Central Luzon, served the suspension orders in the two municipal halls starting last Friday who witnessed by the various chiefs of offices.

Pascua described the take-over by Paez and Pagaduan as “smooth and peaceful” as there was no untoward incident that marred the suspensions. He refused to comment on the twin orders, saying that these are based on the appreciation of the Ombudsman.

Pascua said that we were just tasked to implement the orders and nothing else so it’s beyond us to comment on the orders, explaining that the twin orders are immediately executory even if there is any motion, appeal or petition that may be filed by Lopez and Caspillo. “The motions do not stay the execution of the orders,” he said.

The suspensions were the offshoot of the orders made on November 23 and 24, 2010 by Deputy Ombudsman for Luzon Mark Jalandoni which were subsequently approved by then Ombudsman Maria Merceditas Gutierrez placing Lopez and Caspillo under preventive suspension.

However, it was only on May 27, 2011 when DILG Undersecretary Austere Panadero issued a memorandum directing the DILG regional office, under director Florida Dijan to implement the orders based on the latest order from Assistant Ombudsman Rolando Zoleta.

The preventive suspensions stemmed from the complaint for grave misconduct and conduct prejudicial to the service filed against Lopez and a separate complaint for grave misconduct, oppression and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service against Caspillo.

The complaint against Lopez, who won in the May 2010 elections against former two-term mayor Sonia Lorenzo, was filed by former municipal assessor Elmer Garcia of Barangay Malapit, San Isidro.

The complaint stated that Garcia was appointed municipal assessor by Lorenzo on December 12, 2005 but Lopez constructively dismissed him from the post in a memorandum circular issued on July 19, 2010, less than a month after Lopez assumed his post. The circular directed the most senior career officer in Garcia’s office to take his place.

Garcia claimed Lopez ordered the municipal treasurer, municipal accountant and human resource management officer to withhold his salaries and benefits and his name struck out from the payroll.

In giving due course to Garcia’s complaint, the Ombudsman cited the grounds for the issuance of the preventive suspension on the grounds that the evidence against the respondent is strong, it involves dishonesty, oppression, grave misconduct among others, the charge would warrant removal from the service and the respondent’s continued stay in office may prejudice the case filed against him.         

In its ruling, the Ombudsman said Garcia has shown that he was issued a valid appointment which has not been revoked or declared invalid and which was affirmed by the Civil Service Commission.

But in spite of this, Lopez refused to allow him to discharge his functions which, it said, may amount to oppression as “it appears there is excessive use of authority and domination on his (Lopez’s) part.” 

The complaint against Caspillo was filed by former municipal engineer Leonides Esperon of Osmeña District, Talugtug.

In his complaint, Esperon said he was municipal engineer since July 15, 2003 but when Caspillo assumed office, the latter placed him on floating status and replaced him on July 5,2010 with engineering assistant Wilson Nimenzo as officer-in-charge without any reason. He claimed that Nemenzo came from the private sector and was a neophyte in government.

Esperon further lamented that he was deprived of his representation and travelling allowances (RATAs) for July and August 2010 which were instead given to Nimenzo who even directed him to discharge some other functions.

Esperon, in his complaint, also claimed that Caspillo publicly bragged that he was not afraid of any complaint lodged by the former because “I have many connections in the Office of the Ombudsman.”

In rendering the suspension order, the Office of the Ombudsman said it found the prayer for preventive suspension against Caspillo meritorious, noting that that there was no showing Nimenzo was already an organic personnel of the municipal government at the time of his designation as OIC-municipal engineer.

Supreme Court rules stated that a designated OIC is considered merely as a caretaker of the office while the regular incumbent is on leave of absence. It noted that there was no showing Esperon was temporarily incapacitated to discharge his duties which would require the designation of an OIC for his post.

It also described Nimenzo’s designation as “precipitous” which may constitute oppression or abusive use of authority on the part of Caspillo.

The Ombudsman also said that the denial of Esperon’s allowances is another indication that the evidence of guilt of Caspillo is strong and convincing. (Jason de Asis)


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