Zamboanga del Norte

Ombudsman boots out mayor, 5 others for illegal cockfights in Zamboanga del Norte

Gualberto Laput

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Ombudsman boots out mayor, 5 others for illegal cockfights in Zamboanga del Norte

DISMISSED. Sindangan, Zamboanga del Norte Mayor Rosendo Labadlabad addresses government workers during a flag ceremony alongside Vice Mayor Boy Sy.

Gualberto Laput/Rappler

The Office of the Ombudsman also brings the criminal cases against Sindangan Mayor Mayor Rosendo Labadlabad to the Sandiganbayan

ZAMBOANGA DEL NORTE, Philippines – The Office of the Ombudsman has removed a mayor, four barangay chairmen, and a barangay treasurer from their positions for the holding of illegal small-scale cockfights in Sindangan town, Zamboanga del Norte.

In a joint decision of six administrative cases, the Ombudsman found Sindangan Mayor Rosendo Labadlabad guilty of grave misconduct, for issuing permits to hold the cockfights called tari-tari to the barangay officials, who by law “are not qualified to such permits.”

Also held accountable and dismissed from the service were barangay chairmen Antonio Mohametano, Zosima dela Cerna, Joselito Espinas, and Mysandro Dagondong, and barangay treasurer Rebecca Pacas.

Meanwhile, the Ombudsman charged Labadlabad and the barangay officials last month in the criminal aspect of the same cases, which are now elevated to the Sandiganbayan.

Labadlabad, a former congressman, is one of the three most powerful and influential politicians in Zamboanga del Norte. The other two are former governor Roberto Uy, Labadlabad’s ally, and the province’s known political kingpin Romeo Jalosjos.

The mayor’s wife is the incumbent representative of the province’s 2nd District.

The Ombudsman cited Section 89 (a-2) of Republic Act 7160 which reads, “(a) It shall be unlawful for any government official or employee, directly or indirectly, to… (2) Hold any interests in any cockpit or other games by a local government unit.”

It also cited Section 5 (d) which states, “… cockfighting shall be allowed only in licensed cockpits.”

Sindangan has one licensed cockpit located in the town proper.

Aside from the dismissal order, the Ombudsman slapped them with the accessory penalties of cancellation of eligibility, forfeiture of retirement benefits, and perpetual disqualification from re-employment in the government service.

The decision of the administrative complaint was signed by Graft Investigation and Prosecution Officer Modesto Onia Jr. last May 16 and approved by OIC-Ombudsman Jose Balmeo on September 4.

The Ombudsman also directed Interior Secretary Benjamin Abalos 10 days from receipt of the decision to implement the dismissal order.

Rappler tried to get Labadlabad’s side on December 13, but his aide said, “Mohatag ra daw siya ug statement sa media, kuya. Makabalo raka (The mayor said he will give his statement to the media. You will know soon).”

In their defense, Labadlabad and the barangay officials had asserted that the issuance of permits and holding of tari-tari were “regular, valid and legal” as concerned barangays issued resolutions asking the Sangguniang Bayan to be authorized to hold tari-tari during their fiestas and barangay anniversary celebrations.

They also said the town government authorized the holding of tari-tari in their respective barangays, and Sindangan’s Licensing and Permits Office processed and prepared the permits, which were then signed by the mayor.

Earlier, Labadlabad and the barangay officials said the complaint against them was politically motivated in that it was initiated by the mayor’s rival, Leoncio Orillosa, in the 2022 elections. Orillosa lost to Labadlabad.

“How can it be political when the complaints were filed a year before elections? I just want to protect Sindangan from unscrupulous government officials,” said Orillosa.

He said there were 27 criminal and administrative cases filed against Labadlabad and several barangay officials in 2021.

Orillosa, a retired Sangguniang Bayan secretary, told Rappler that he received a copy of the Ombudsman’s decision on Wednesday, December 13. 

Lawyer Peter Co, a member of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan, said Labadlabad and the other officials may still appeal the decision on the administrative case before the Ombudsman.

“If the Ombudsman does not reverse its decision, Labadlabad may go to the Court of Appeals and get a temporary restraining order against the Ombudsman decision, which by that time becomes executory,” Co said. – Rappler.com

1 comment

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  1. ET

    An appreciation to the Office of the Ombudsman for doing its job. The mentioned barangay chairpersons wanted to have their way, even if against the Law, by way of the Political Patronage system. The said action is also unfair to the owner of the licensed cockpit owner. Again, good work Ombudsman!

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