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Catbalogan City mayor, vice mayor suspended for 6 months

SAMAR, Philippines – The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) on Thursday, January 3, served a 6-month preventive suspension order on Catbalogan City Mayor Stephany Uy-Tan, Vice Mayor Art Sherwin Gabon, 7 city councilors, and 3 city hall employees.

The Office of the Ombudman issued the suspension order on November 26, 2018, in connection with the Catbalogan City government's alleged overpriced purchase of a 5.8-hectare property but the DILG only served it only on Thursday.

The others on preventive suspension are Catbalogan City Councilors Coefredo Uy, Jeffry Uy, Maximo Pescos, Edward Uy, Christine Joy Escobar, Beethoven Bermejo, and Nanette Jasmin;  City Assessor Romero Tuazon; Assistant City Assessor Arthur Macabare; and Office of the City Assessor employee Rizal Ignacio 

The DILG designated Councilor Archie Fuentes as acting mayor, and Councilor Kendall Perez, as acting vice mayor.

This means Fuentes and Perez will be at the helm of Catbalogan until June, which includes the election period and election day in May.

Why were they suspended? The case stemmed from a plunder case filed by Bernard Jake Ramos, an employee of the Catbalogan City mayor’s office, against the city officials.

Ramos said that the officials were involved in the purchase of the 80,150-square meter agricultural land of Lorenzo and Alvin Laohoo for P120 million, which only has a supposed market value of P155,497.84.

In his complaint, Ramos alleged that the market value of the  purchased agricultural land spiked after it was reclassified from agricultural to residential after the city council passed a series of resolutions in 2015.

Ramos alleged that the lot purchase was "dubious" because the lot owners had close ties with the family of the mayor.

Ramos told Rappler that his life had been placed at risk after he became a whistleblower.

He said he has been fighting corruption in the government throughout his whole career, with some success.

"Krusada ko na ito mula noon pa. And I feel elated ngayon na finally na serve na din ang suspension order  (This has been my personal crusade ever since. And I feel elated that finally they served the suspension order)," Ramos told Rappler.  – Rappler.com