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MANILA, Philippines – Can Seth Frederick “Bullet” Jalosjos work as Dapitan City mayor and Television and Productions Exponents Incorporated’s (TAPE Inc.) chief finance officer (CFO) at the same time?
This is a public interest issue after he became part of news headlines in the past few weeks following the resignation of Vic Sotto, Tito Sotto, and Joey de Leon as the main hosts of Eat Bulaga!, a show run by TAPE Inc., the production company and blocktimer of the noontime variety show on leading broadcast network GMA.
TAPE Inc.’s president and CEO is Bullet’s half-brother, Romeo “Jon-jon” Jalosjos Jr., former Zamboanga del Norte 1st District congressman who is awaiting a poll protest ruling.
The Commission on Elections (Comelec) declared Jalosjos Jr. winner of the congressional race in Zamboanga del Norte’s 1st District in the May 2022 elections, but only after the poll body disqualified a nuisance candidate who had the same surname. An election protest filed by Roberto Uy Jr. remains pending before the Supreme Court, however, so Jalosjos Jr.’s name is not yet included in the roster of the House of Representatives.
The Jalosjos family owns 75% of TAPE, while 25% is owned by producer Antonio “Tony” Tuviera, the Dapitan mayor said. The chairman of TAPE Inc. is ex-convict and former Zamboanga del Norte congressman Romeo Jalosjos Sr. He was convicted in 1997 for raping an 11-year-old girl. In 2002, the Supreme Court upheld his conviction with finality and he was imprisoned for more than 10 years.
In an interview with Boy Abunda posted on April 19, Bullet Jalosjos said he has been part of TAPE’s board for around three to four years.
What the Local Government Code says
Section 90 of the Local Government Code of 1991 says: “All governors, city and municipal mayors are prohibited from practicing their profession or engaging in any occupation other than the exercise of their functions as local chief executives.”
University of the Philippines College of Law lecturer Oliver Xavier Reyes distinguished between “practicing a profession” and “engaging in any occupation.”
The former means practicing an activity that is professionally licensed and does not cover general business activities, Reyes said.
Given this definition, Reyes said that Mayor Jalosjos would not be covered under “practicing a profession” unless he is a certified public accountant and works as CFO in that capacity.
The definition of “engaging in any occupation,” on the other hand, is not clear based on jurisprudence, Reyes said.
In a 2019 legal opinion, former Department of the Interior and Local Government undersecretary Marivel Sacendoncillo said that, as far as Section 90 of the LGC is concerned, there is nothing wrong with a local chief executive engaging in a business as long as he or she does not actively participate in its management and daily operations.
“The evil sought to be prevented by the prohibition under section 90 of the Local Government Code is the possibility that local chief executives cannot devote full-time and a faithful performance of their duties and functions as such because their time was eaten up by the exercise of their profession or engagement in an occupation and takes precious time away from the full exercise of their functions and duties as public servants,” Sacendoncillo’s opinion said.
Taking this opinion into account, Reyes said that holding a title like CFO is not by itself proof that Jalosjos is violating Section 9 of the LGC.
“If he is CFO but has staff that handles the day-to-day, and at the end of the day, he is just asked to approve certain decisions via SMS/e-mail, I would argue that such limited activity (despite his title) would not fall under the Section 90 ban,” he said.
Reyes said that the possible violation of the provision would depend on whether Jalosjos’ executive position requires him to be actively engaged in the day-to-day operations of TAPE.
“That is the evil that Section 90 seeks to prevent – that the other occupation/activity distracts him from performing his daily functions as mayor,” Reyes added.
When asked if the appearance of Jalosjos on television and his interviews with other media outlets in the past few weeks as an officer TAPE is an indication that his role as a CFO distracts him from performing his daily functions as local chief executive, Reyes said, “Maybe it is an indication.”
He, however, said that he cannot just conclude without knowing all the facts.
“At the very least, it is an indication that the last few weeks, he has been distracted from performing as mayor, and such behavior is contrary to what Section 90 intends to prohibit,” he said.
Rappler sought Mayor Bullet Jalosjos and DILG for comments, but they have yet to reply as of posting time.
The penalties for violating Section 90 of the LGC are not clearly specified in the law.
The Ombudsman, however, would have jurisdiction under Section 19 of Republic Act 6770 (Ombudsman Act of 1989) in case an administrative complaint is filed against the mayor alleging that a public officer had acted “contrary to law.”
The penalties range from fine, suspension, or removal from public office, Reyes said.
Reyes, however, noted that this is a generic power with a generic penalty involving the violation of any law. – Rappler.com