MANILA, Philippines – The Ombudsman has ordered the dismissal of a city mayor and an official of Tuguegarao in Cagayan, for grave misconduct for issuing a special permit to a businesswoman and closing some streets for a city fiesta without prior approval of the city council.
Tuguegarao Mayor Jefferson Soriano, a member of the of the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC), and City Administrator Ronald Brillantes were found guilty of grave misconduct, and were criminally charged with two counts of violating Section 3(e) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
In a press statement on Tuesday, September 9, the Office of the Ombudsman said that on July 11, 2013, Soriano gave a special permit to Vicky Medina to operate a baratilyo (bargain stalls in streets) for the city’s fiesta celebrations from August to September 2013.
Soriano also ordered the closure of parts of Gomez, Del Rosario, and Gonzaga streets for the purpose.
However, Soriano sent to the city council a letter-request for authority to conduct the baratilyo and to close the streets only a week later, on July 18. Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales said that this action “deliberately pre-empted, if not circumvented, the will of the local legislative body.”
The respondents also “granted a privilege to a private party without the benefit of negotiations, and without taking into account the safety, operation, and financial conditions that the Sangguniang Panlungsod (city council) was able to lay down through a City Resolution [issued] only on July 31, 2013.”
“The mere fostering of an uneven playing field in the conferment of a public privilege is, in itself, injurious to public interest,” stressed Carpio-Morales.
As for the closure of city roads, Carpio-Morales said that Soriano “has no plenary authority to unilaterally cause the closure of local roads.” The act, even on a temporary basis, “must bear legislative, and not simply executive fiat,” she added.
In addition to their dismissal and the criminal charges against them, Soriano and Brillantes face the accessory penalties of cancellation of civil service eligibility, forfeiture of retirement benefits, and perpetual disqualification from holding public office, the Ombudsman said. – Rappler.com