CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines – Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales once again slapped reelected city mayor Oscar Moreno with a 3-month suspension without pay.
City budget officer, lawyer Percy Salazar, and city accountant, lawyer Beda Joy Elot were also ordered suspended for simple abuse of authority.
Carpio-Morales said she ordered the filing of graft charges against Moreno for violations of Section 3 (e) of the Anti-graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
The graft charges stemmed from a lease contract agreement that Moreno allegedly entered into in 2013 to house the city’s Sports Development Program for professional and amateur boxing.
The investigation showed that the city disbursed P175,000 for rental payment without prior authority from the city council.
Carpio-Morales said that the contract without the approval of the city council is a blatant disregard of the provision of the Local Government Code (Republic Act 7160).
The case is part of at least 80 cases filed against Moreno by the camp of his archrival former city mayor Vicente Emano, whom Moreno defeated twice in the election.
Moreno has called on his supporters to stay calm as his suspension stems from a sports development program that produced world class boxers.
“We are standing on strong legal ground. Our defense is clear – that budget spent to rent quarters for boxers no longer needed authorization from the city council,” Moreno said.
Puntod barangay captain Marvin Beja sued Moreno for allegedly spending P178,000 to lease a house for boxers under the City Sports Development Program in 2013.
The budget came from savings of the city and augmented the Sports Development Program that produced world class boxers like Prince Albert and Jason Pagara, Milan Melindo, and many amateur boxers now in the national team’s boxing pool.
Moreno said the 2013 budget ordinance allowed augmentation of the budget. That provision in the ordinance, he said, is sufficient authorization to realign budget savings with other purposes even without city council authorization.
Elot said their lawyers are studying their legal remedies while they wait for their copy of the recent Ombudsman decision.
Moreno, however, explained during his weekly radio program on Saturday morning at 95.7 Mellow Touch FM, he is confident that even if he did not contest the suspension, he would no longer have to serve it. Jurisprudence specifies that no one can be suspended beyond his term of office, he said.
The act for which he was suspended happened during his first term and by noon of June 30, 2016, he had already started his second term.
News of the suspensions came out on July 1, 2016. The Department of the Interior and Local Government has yet to serve the suspension order.
Another legal ground for staving off his suspension is the condonation or the Aguinaldo Doctrine.
Although the Supreme Court (SC) said it is abandoning the Aguinaldo Doctrine, which condones administrative penalties of officials who are subsequently reelected, it would only apply prospectively. The SC ruling was handed down on November 10, 2015.
In the Binay vs Morales case handed down on November 10, 2015, a case was filed for acts done in 2013.
Moreno likewise invoked the condonation doctrine in an earlier dismissal case for grave abuse of authority and grave misconduct in the Ajinomoto tax settlement case.
The mayor, along with acting city treasurer Glenn Bañez, is appealing his dismissal before the Court of Appeals.
Emano in denial
He described the cases being orchestrated by former mayor Emano against him as incessant, unrelenting, and vicious.
The former mayor, whom he defeated in 2013 and again in 2016, he said, is in denial of his political demise.
“His (Emano) heart is bleeding because he knows that as a result of any service I give to the people, he is drawn away from them. He fears being compared to me,” Moreno said during his radio program.
Moreno gave assurances it is business as usual in City Hall as they fast-track development plans for the city.
Moreno said that he plans to build 800 more classrooms to add to the almost 500 classrooms he built in his first term.
Later this year, a second city-owned hospital, a 25-bed health facility will start construction in barangay Lumbia.
Modernization of the 200-bed JR Borja General Hospital, which was left for dead by the 15-year administration of Emano, will also continue. – Rappler.com
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