Other options open for suspended SPMs

“There are still other means to employ in seeking justice.”

Thus said Bacolod City Mayor Evelio Leonardia regarding the suspension of the Ombudsman to the city councilors from the administrative complaint filed before the Office of the Ombudsman against the city councilors on April 25, 2015 by former Bacolod City Councilor Juan Ramon Guanzon, also then chairman of the Games and Amusement Board (GAB).

The case, abuse of authority/and or ignorance of the law was filed against former councilors Jocelle Batapa-Sigue, Roberto Rojas, Archie Baribar, Alex Paglumotan and incumbent Councilors Em Ang, Sonya Verdeflor and Wilson Gamboa Jr. for reason of approving Barangay Tangub Resolution No. 16-103, series of 2016, authorizing to hold cockfights on certain dates, which are violation of City Ordinance 506.

According to Vice Mayor El Cid Familiaran, the suspension order was served during the mid-week, by Bacolod Interior and Local Government officer-in-charge Carmelo Orbista yesterday at the Bacolod City Government Center and was received by the representatives of the incumbent councilors. Gunazon’s complaint stated that Bacolod has an existing ordinance, C.O. 506, which grants special permits to hold cockfights for special and charitable purposes, for the benefit of the barangay during fiesta or charter day celebration.

The SP approved the Resolution of Barangay Tangub to hold cockfight on April 3, 4 and 5, 2016 in connection with the barangay fiesta. But the fiesta of Brgy. Tangub falls every May 15 and its charter day is in September.

In the counter-affidavits of the respondent-councilors, that considering the voluminous documents that accompany their agenda every week, they merely rely on the contents of the barangay resolutions. Since the request was in the form of a resolution passed upon in a barangay session by the council, it was presumed to have been conducted with regularity and according to law. They also pointed out that there was nothing wrong on the part of the Sanggunian to rely on the information from the barangay itself which is expected to know the date of their fiesta.

Gamboa said such findings of the Ombudsman is without basis and without any taint of irregularity because the basis itself is silent on the time length of holding the three-day cockfights in the barangay’s fiesta. The ordinance only provides that the three-day cockfight will be held in a span of three weeks not within three weeks from the occasion. There is no basis in law and in fact to punish us of simple neglect of duty,” Gamboa also said.

Familiaran also said the case may have been filed because Brgy. Tangub moved its fund-raising event before the implementation of the election ban. Normally, if a barangay holds a fund-raising activity, the intention is to finance its upcoming fiesta or charter day celebration.

DILG Memorandum to Mayor Leonardia stated that “the penalty of suspension could no longer be enforced to former Councilors Jocelle Batapa-Sigue, Roberto Rojas, Archie Baribar and Alex Pagloumotan due to the separation from service, but the same shall be converted to a fine in an amount equivalent to their salary for one month and one day payable to the Office of the Ombudsman, and may be deductible from their retirement benefits, accrued credits or any receivable from his office.

Leonardia said the respondent Councilors can seek intervention from higher courts.*(Edith B. Colmo)


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