LGUs in the Philippines

Pampanga town mayor faces fourth suspension

Joann Manabat

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Pampanga town mayor faces fourth suspension

SUSPENDED. San Simon Mayor Abundio "Jun" Punsalan attends the opening of the Barangay San Nicolas-San Pedro bridge on Monday, June 24, hours before his suspension was served.

Pampanga PIO Facebook

The three previous suspensions of the mayor of San Simon, Pampanga, stemmed from the order and recommendation by Governor Dennis Pineda and the provincial board

PAMPANGA, Philippines – Mayor Abundio Punsalan Jr. of San Simon town in Pampanga province was served another preventive suspension order by the provincial government on Monday, June 24, his fourth in his two terms of office.

All of Punsalan’s three earlier suspensions were recommended by Pampanga Governor Dennis Pineda and the provincial board and involved a questionable land purchase in 2020.

Vice Mayor Romanoel Santos assumed the mayoral post also on Monday afternoon.

Punsalan and Santos are allies in the Nacionalista Party, while Governor Pineda heads the Kambilan Party.

Pineda signed Punsalan’s latest suspension order under Administrative Case No. 01-2024 to ensure that the ongoing case against the San Simon mayor will remain unbiased and uninfluenced. Pineda also cited allegations of gross neglect of duty, abuse of authority, gross misconduct in the performance of duty, and violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act under Republic Act 3019.

In the suspension order, the findings of the provincial board’s committee on justice, good government, and public accountability cited the administrative complaint which came from a dubious mayor’s permit issued on March 9, 2023 to One Sky Aluminum Extrusion Corporation.

One Sky Aluminum allegedly operated without essential requirements such as an environmental clearance certificate, non-appointment of pollution control officer, non-installation of anti-pollution devices, non-compliance with health and safety standards, and clear violation of environmental laws.

After deliberations on April 23 and 25, the Sangguniang Panlalawigan (SP) said that the evidence of guilt against Punsalan was “strong.”

The suspension order also said that Punsalan’s remaining in office could “influence the witnesses or pose a threat to the safety and integrity of the records.”

“Even though the authenticity of the documents presented by the complainants is not disputed, the potential for the respondent mayor to influence testimonies of possible witnesses remains substantial concern noting that some of the possible witnesses on the case are employees of the municipality under the control and supervision of the respondent mayor,” the order read.

Rappler reached out to Punsalan. We will update this story when we receive his response.

BIG SMILES. Pampanga Governor Dennis Pineda (right) and San Simon Mayor Abundio Punsalan during the opening of the Barangay San Nicolas-San Pedro bridge on Monday, June 24, hours before his suspension was served. Pampanga PIO Facebook
Three previous suspensions

On November 6, 2020, Pineda had initially ordered a 60-day preventive suspension of Punsalan together with then councilor Santos, and councilors Mark Macapagal, Irene Dagdag, Randell Bondoc, Archiebald Basilio, and Alekseyevich Vergara over alleged irregularities of a land purchase, said a report from the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

Based on the same dubious land purchase, the iOrbit News Online and Politiko Central Luzon reported July 9, 2021, that the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) served Punsalan a six-month suspension order.

Then vice mayor Leonora Wong took over as the acting local chief executive from November 2020 to January 2021 and July 2021 to January 2022.

Punsalan’s 3rd suspension was on September 21, 2023, still on the 2020 land purchase. The DILG suspended the mayor based on a decision by the Office of the Ombudsman against Punsalan and four councilors for simple neglect of duty and simple misconduct in connection with the alleged irregularities of the reclassification of land. – Rappler.com

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