Abra court nixes suspension of officials linked to shoot-the-litterbugs tarp

Sherwin de Vera

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Abra court nixes suspension of officials linked to shoot-the-litterbugs tarp

WARNING. A tarpaulin along Calaba Road starts a controversy and social media buzz, resulting in a municipal council probe and a 90-day preventive suspension against barangay officials.

Courtesy of Dick Bersamira

The Bangued town government sees the tarp as an implied threat to shoot stubborn litterbugs, but a court disagrees with its response against barangay officials

ILOCOS SUR, Philippines – In Bangued town in Abra, a tarpaulin along a barangay road warned against irresponsible garbage disposal with fines for the first two offenses. However, the third offense came with an image of a gun, creating a situation that escalated to a legal battle between town and barangay officials.

The town government saw the tarp, blamed on barangay officials, as an implied threat to shoot stubborn litterbugs.

A regional court quashed on Tuesday, June 18, the order issued by the town government of Bangued, suspending six barangay officials of Calaba – barangay chairman Renato Brasuela, village councilors Marjun Santiago, Rosemel Viado, Marlbour Jude Valera, Carmelita Venus, and Sangguniang Kabataan chairperson Darryl Blanes – because of the controversial tarp.

The court found that there was a grave abuse of discretion on the part of Bangued’s town officials

Judge German Ballesteros III of the Regional Trial Court Branch 1 declared the 90-day preventive suspension against the village officials “null and void for lack of factual and legal basis.”

The decision arose from a petition for certiorari filed by Brasuela and his companions, questioning the suspension order.

On May 3, the municipal council recommended suspending the barangay officials for alleged grave misconduct, grave abuse of authority, gross neglect of duty, gross dishonesty, and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service. Bangued Mayor Mila Valera imposed the order on May 6.

The town government  also held the village officials accountable for failing to remove the tarpaulin hanging on the road from January until it was removed on March 31 after a Facebook post showing the poster went viral.

Brasuela and the other village officials denied having such an ordinance in the barangay that threatens those who improperly dispose of their garbage with gun violence, and neither did they see the controversial tarp.

In his decision, Judge Ballesteros noted that the terms cited by the municipal council for the suspension order were “mere verbatim reproductions of the law, unsupported by any factual and substantial evidence.” 

He said that “there is no showing that the evidence of guilt is strong.”

The judge also stated that the court was not convinced that keeping the barangay officials in office could influence witnesses or threaten the safety and integrity of the evidence.

The court questioned the town officials’ failure to explain why other barangay officials were not included in the suspension order. It said the municipal council issued the order with haste and without considering the action would deprive residents of the village of the services of their elected officials, making it “unreasonable.”

Ballesteros said it was apparent that the town council’s actions are a “political vendetta” against the barangays officials “not done in good faith, not for a valid cause, and done without according the petitioners due process.” – Rappler.com

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