Ombudsman suspends Kalinga town mayor

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RIZAL, Kalinga  – The ombudsman ordered the suspension of Mayor Marcelo dela Cruz, Jr. for ninety days without pay after finding him liable for simple misconduct.

In an 8-page decision penned by Graft Investigation and Prosecution Officer II John Paul P. Galang and approved by Ombudsman Concita Carpio-Morales, it found the complaint filed by Sangguniang Bayan Members Rogelio D. Lawad, Robert R. Echalar, Frank Wad-asen, Colin T. Dalanao and Ponz Anthony L. Orodio as meritorious since records show that mayor dela Cruz alleged authorized the disbursement of funds from the savings of the municipality in 2014 for the grant of cash gifts and incentives to municipal casual employees and barangay officials, barangay tanods, barangay health workers, day care workers and barangay nutrition scholars and that the use of savings and augmentation was authorized under the 2014 budget itself not by a separate ordinance and that the source of the funds inadvertently recorded as personal services but the entry was latter corrected to indicate maintenance and other operating expenses.

In authorizing the disbursement, the decision cited Mayor dela Cruz has transgressed Section 336 of Republic Act 7160 or the Local government Code of the Philippines  because he violated the said provision because he used the savings to augment an item in the approved 2014 municipal budget that is clearly not for the office of the mayor.

The decision underscored the act of Mayor dela Cruz reportedly constitutes misconduct which is defined as a transgression of some established and definite rule of action, a forbidden act, a dereliction of duty, unlawful behavior willful in character, improper or wrong behaviour.

“This office finds that the use of savings and augmentation here is authorized under Section 8 of Appropriation Ordinance No. 2013-02 approving the municipality’s 2014 budget. That the authorization is expressed in appropriation itself is enough compliance with the law. The decision stressed.

It added the charge for dishonesty and grave abuse of authority against mayor dela Cruz for certifying as to the availability of funds for the cash gift and incentives was dismissed as there were funds actually appropriated for the intended purpose, albeit erroneously applied.

According to the decision, Mayor dela Cruz is not also guilty of conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service as records are bereft of proof that his act tarnished the image of the government or deprived it of a committed service and that the Commission on Audit (COA) did not issue a notice of disallowance with regard the subject disbursement is not material.

The decision stated simple misconduct is a less grave offense punishable by suspension of one month and one day to six months for the first offense and dismissal from the service for the second offense and considering the absence of mitigating and aggravating circumstances in the said case, the medium period of the penalty will be imposed upon Mayor dela Cruz.

In the event that the penalty of suspension can no longer be imposed due to respondent’s separation from the service, the decision noted the penalty shall be converted into a fine in an amount equivalent to his salary for three months payable to the Ombudsman and may be deductible from his retirement benefits, accrued leave credits or any receivables from his office.

Herald Express tried to get in touch with the respondent through a text message to his son but no response was received.

By HENT

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