BAGUIO, Philippines – Suspended Mayor Hermenegildo “Dong” Gualberto said that he is stepping down as mayor of San Fernando City in La Union, turning the province again into a political monolith.
This, after the Office of the Ombudsman gave its order imposing the penalty of dismissal on him.
“Ibinaba mula sa Office of the Ombudsman ang decision imposing the penalty of dismissal na nangangahulugang hindi ko na maaring tapusin ang aking ikalawang termino bilang city mayor at hindi na rin ako maaaring tumakbo o maihalal sa anumang posisyon sa gobyerno,” Gualberto said.
(The Office of the Ombudsman handed down its decision imposing the penalty of dismissal which means I will not be able to finish my second term as city mayor and will not be able to run or be elected into public office.)
Gualberto, a charismatic politician who rose from the political ranks, is the only major elective officer in the province who is not an Ortega.
He changed the profile picture of his Facebook page, Manong Dong, to black to show that he is indeed stepping down.
The Ombudsman issued a preventive suspension order against Gualberto due to alleged misuse of local government funds stemming from the rehabilitation of the city plaza.
The 20-page order from the Ombudsman based its decision on the complaint-affidavit filed by Cadaclan Barangay Chair Samuel Jucar and 46 other barangay chairmen last January 28, 2019.
The Ombudsman issued its preventive suspension against Gualberto in early May, saying that the rehabilitation of the plaza for P66 million was taken from the development fund and has no impact on the socioeconomic and environmental development of San Fernando City.
Gualberto last May said that that the case only aimed to taint his image in time for his reelection bid on May 13.
And Gualberto, who ran as an independent candidate, did beat another Ortega – Vice Mayor Jose Ma Pepe Ortega, one of the elder Ortegas.
Alfredo Pablo Ortega, brother of Governor Francisco Emmanuel “Pacoy” Ortega, was the lone candidate for vice mayor.
Prior to his dismissal, Gualberto did not receive his salary and was prohibited from performing his duties as a local executive for a period of not more than 6 months.
“Bilang respeto sa desisyon ng Ombudsman, bababa ako sa puwesto pero hindi ito mangangahulugan na sumasang-ayon ako sa paspasang paglilitis o sumusuko sa laban dahil taliwas ang kanilang mga paratang; wala tayong ginawang mali o masama,” Gualberto said.
(To respect the Ombudsman’s decision, I will step down from my post but it does not mean that I agree with the speedy process or surrender my fight because their allegations are not right; we did not do anything wrong or bad.)
“Dadalhin natin ang kaso na ito sa mas mataas na hukuman kung saan hinahangad nating magkaroon ng patas at angkop na pagsisiyasat (We will bring this case to a higher court where we hope for a more just and appropriate investigation),” he added.
Gualberto was the vice mayor of the city before beating former mayor Mary Jane Ortega in 2016.
With Gualberto out of the limelight temporarily, it is again the Ortegas ruling the province, which they have been doing for the past 120 years.
Fourteen out of 17 members of the Ortega clan won in 2019, led by Governor Ortega and his uncle, Vice Governor Mario Eduardo Ortega. Pacoy’s wife, Vini, is on her second term as representative of the party list, Abono.
Representative Pablo Ortega of the 1st district is on his last term, while his wife Mariquita won as mayor of San Juan. – Rappler.com