Tension grips Lipa city hall due to Mayor’s suspension order

Tina Ganzon-Ozaeta

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Tension grips Lipa city hall due to Mayor’s suspension order
(UPDATED) Mayor Meynard Sabili is meted with a year's suspension without pay on June 27, but maintains he has filed a motion for review and is waiting for a temporary restraining order. Meanwhile, the opposition calls for the vice mayor to take Sabili's place.

LIPA CITY, Philippines (UPDATED) – Employees of Lipa City hall are baffled after hearing about a suspension order issued by the Office of the Ombudsman against Mayor Meynard Sabili for Oppression and Conduct Prejudicial to the Best Interest of Service.

In a 10-page decision signed by Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales on June 27, 2018, Sabili was meted with the penalty of one year suspension without pay.

The case stemmed from a complaint filed by former Lipa City Social Welfare Development Officer Teresita T. Pesa last September 15, 2010 after she was re-assigned and floated in a different position.

Sabili admitted to ordering the re-shuffling of employees after he assumed office because he wanted to clean the ranks, an act which he claims is very well within the power of the mayor.

“Finloat ko sya pero may assignment pa rin, may sweldo pa rin habang iniimbestigahan. Nagkaroon ng investigation ang discipline board, ang lumabas dismissal. Despite the dismissal order, I reversed it, I never implemented it. Pina-float ko lang muna habang sya ay naka-appeal sa Civil Service Commission. May oppresion ba na despite the decision hindi ko sya tinanggal because of humanitarian consideration?,” Sabili said.

(I placed her on floating status, but gave her assignments and a salary even while she was being investigated. The discipline board had an investigation, and they ordered a dismissal. Despite the dismissal order, I reversed it, I never implemented it. I placed her on floating status while she appeals with the Civil Service Commission. Is there oppression despite the decision not to dismiss her because of humanitarian consideration?)

During the flag raising ceremony on Monday, August 6, Sabili addressed the employees admitting that he has seen a copy of the Ombudsman’s decision two weeks ago but has since filed a motion for review with the Court of Appeals and is waiting for the issuance of a temporary restraining order (TRO). He said, however, that he will comply with the suspension should it be served by proper authorities.

He also called on Senator Ralph Recto to stop meddling with the affairs of the Lipa City government after receiving information that Recto has been pressuring the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) to immediately serve the suspension order.

“Ako ay umaapela kay Senador. Sana naman po Senador pabayaan nyo na ang Lipa. Hayaan nyo na po yung natititra ko pang 9 na buwan na paglilingkod, huwag na nyo i-pressure kung sino man, kasi hindi po nagkakaroon ng katarungan kapag nagagamit ng politiko,” Sabili added.

 (I am appealing to the senator to leave Lipa alone. Let me have my remaining 9 months of service, and don’t pressure anyone, as it isn’t just if you’re using politics.)

For his part, Senator Recto said “I do not get involved with local issues. Have not spoken to anyone from DILG re Sabili suspension order.”

While Sabili was addressing his constituents, a group of barangay captains, together with opposition city councilors, arrived at the city hall calling on Lipa Vice Mayor Eric Africa to take his oath as Mayor.

“Ang operation ng city ay hampered dahil pag kami ay nase-session hindi na ako nirerecognize as Vice Mayor or presiding officer dahil sabi nila dapat nag-a-act na ako as mayor,” Africa said.

(The city’s operations are hampered because when we have sessions, I’m not recognized as vice mayor or presiding officer becuase they say I should act as mayor.)

Last July 31, the Office of the Sangguniang Panlungsod (SP) issued a resolution questioning the delay of DILG in implementing the suspension order and appealing to the good sense of justice and propriety of the office.

“Ito ay hindi lang ako, mismong SP ang nagpasa ng resolution, unanimously approved ibig sabihin walang politika ito na nagtatanong sa DILG kung bakit delayed ang implementation order. Bakit po silang mga taga DILG ang hindi gumagampan sa kanilang trabaho na i-serve immediately ang suspension order? Pag maliliit na empleyado saglit lamang tanggal agad sa pwesto. Pero pag ganitong malalaking tao eh parang hindi kaya ng DILG na ipatupad ang batas. Sana ho ay pantay pantay,” Africa added.

(This isn’t about me, as the SP passed the resolution and unanimously approved it, meaning there’s no politics here about asking the DILG why the implementation order is delayed. Why does the DILG not do its job of immediately serving the suspension order? When it’s a rank and file employee, removals from their posts are done quickly. When it’s a notable personality, it’s as if the DILG can’t follow through on the law. We want things to be equal.)

Meanwhile, Sabili challenged Africa to produce 5,000 warm bodies in the city hall grounds calling for his ouster and he will gladly leave his post, a challenge that Africa said he will not respond to.

“Ayoko ho na kami ay magkagulo at kami ay pare-parehong taga Lipa. Magaling sya at siya ay dayo dito, pero hindi ko papayagan na kaming mga taga Lipa ay mag-away away. Wala kang malasakit Mayor Sabili kung yan ang iyong kondisyon para bumaba ka sa pwesto,” Africa responded.

(I don’t want any trouble between us, the people of Lipa. Good for him as he is not originally from here, but I won’t let us fellows from Lipa fight. You have no concern for the people, Mayor Sabili, if that’s your condition for leaving your post.)

Effective August 6, Africa appointed city councilor Camille Lopez as Acting Vice Mayor to allow the legislative body to continue working and not continuously hamper the deliver of service to the people of Lipa. – Rappler.com

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