Councilor files complaints against mayor, 12 other local officials in Pampanga town

Joann Manabat

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Councilor files complaints against mayor, 12 other local officials in Pampanga town

NEW PROJECT. The proposed five-story government center project in Mabalacat City, Pampanga.

Courtesy of Mabalacat City News

The Office of the Ombudsman is set to hold a preliminary hearing on the complaints against the officials involved in the Mabalacat City government center project on January 31

PAMPANGA, Philippines – Local government officials of Mabalacat City, Pampanga, found themselves in the hot seat for alleged grave misconduct, graft and corruption in connection with the acquisition of land and construction of a proposed P2.1-billion five-story government center project.

Another P610 million which was also used to purchase the 2.1-hectare property in Barangay Camachiles (where the proposed government center will be constructed), is also being questioned by Councilor Jun Castro.

Aside from Mayor Crisostomo Garbo and Vice Mayor Gerald Aquino, nine councilors are said to be involved as signatories in the approval and signing of Appropriation Ordinance No. 05  during the 35th regular session of the Sangguniang Panlungsod (SP) in March 2023. They are councilors Timothy Paul Llanos Dee, Victor Tiglao II, Noel Castro, Elizabeth Pineda, Roland Peña, Jerry Magsino, Carlo Francis Dizon, Elmer Mendiola, and Hans Christian Balingit.

Castro, who was a former appropriations committee chair, refused to sign the ordinance because of lack of due diligence, while two other councilors, Cherry Manalo and Marjorie Sambo, were absent during the session. 

Philreca Representative Presley de Jesus and Sta. Rosa City Representative Dan Fernandez filed House Resolution No. 1486 (HR 1486) in November 2023 directing the committee on public accounts to conduct an investigation into the alleged irregularities surrounding the Mabalacat City government center project.

Partial copy of House Resolution No. 1486. Photo by Joann Manabat

HR 1486 said that the 2023 annual investment plan of the local government of Mabalacat City did not include the construction of the government center project. It also said that the AIP should show the expenditures of the local government to serve as basis for the preparation of its annual and supplemental budget.

The resolution also said that Garbo allegedly entered into a loan agreement with Land Bank of the Philippines (Landbank) for P2.070 billion to fund the project without securing proper authorization from the city council.

Landbank, in a letter sent to Garbo last October, indicated the conditions for withholding the release of the loan:

  • A case being filed against the local government unit or its officials involved in the project to be financed
  • An adverse finding on the project or object of financing
  • Withdrawal of the city council of the authority given to the local chief executive to contract the loan

Proof of termination, disposal, or dismissal of the cases must be submitted, the letter said, to avail of the loan.

The 2.1-hectare property was owned by the Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company, Incorporated (PLDT). In March 2023, Garbo signed the deed of absolute sale (DOAS) through Resolution No. 155. 

Based on the DOAS, the total amount was “P527.8 million with 12% value added tax. However, P610 million was the amount indicated for the acquisition of lot to be used for the proposed government center under the statement of supplemental appropriation programs, projects, and activities.”

Partial image of the statement of supplemental appropriation. Photo by Joann Manabat

A groundbreaking ceremony was also held in July 2023, coinciding with Mabalacat’s 11th cityhood anniversary.

In April 2023, Castro filed a complaint before the Ombudsman against Garbo, Aquino, the 11 councilors, and City Treasurer Marlene Mendoza. 

The Office of the Ombudsman, in September 2023, ordered them to file their counter-affidavits for alleged violations of Republic Act 6713 or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees for grave misconduct and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service, and Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

Castro said a preliminary hearing had been set for January 31 at the Office of the Ombudsman.

“For the information of everybody on the development of the case, we filed a case and then they sent counter affidavits. After they sent their counter affidavits, I also sent mine. And then the Ombudsman asked for the position paper of the respondents. The latest development after the position paper, a preliminary will be held on January 31, 9 am at the Office of the Ombudsman,” said Castro.

In a statement, the city information office said that it has not received any new formal complaint and it refused to participate in the “smear campaign.”

“He (Garbo) will neither engage in unsubstantiated speculation by the councilor nor dignify his unfounded accusations with a response. The camp of the mayor refuses to partake in the smear campaign of the SP member, and remains focused on serving the best interests of the city,” said city information office head Jay Pelayo IV.

The proposed plan to build a new government center was officially announced in October 2023, based on a press statement of the city information office through the Mabalacat City News Facebook page.

If approved, the new government center will house the city hall and other essential government agencies to “easily access vital services in a centralized location.”

The Mabalacat City hall is currently located at the northern part of the city in Xevera Complex, Barangay Tabun. It was inaugurated in 2009. The city hall also has an extension office inside Clark Freeport Zone. –

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