By Dave S. Albarado
Embattled Panglao town Mayor Leonila Paredes-Montero has revealed she is anticipating a colossallegal battle after reports had come out with the Ombudsman ordering the filing of charges against her, at the same time, suspending the lady mayor from office for 90 days.
The Panglao mayor said she acted in “good faith” when she hired consultants, which the Ombudsman cited her for alleged violation of the law.
Montero finally ended her silence a day after a press release from the Office of the Ombudsman came out on Tuesday ordering her suspension and filing of charges.
The lady mayor on Wednesday night told the Bohol Tribune over dyTR’s Open Forum program that she will study her legal options upon receipt of the Ombudsman’s order.
She declined to comment further on the matter pending the receipt of the order.
Montero said she only learned of the news on suspension order while she was in Manila.
She was invited to attend a gathering in the nation’s capital where the town was commendedfor hosting four interagency meetings among members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the first of which was in April this year and the fourth one in November.
Montero said what she did in 2013 was anchored on “good faith” as she saw the move to hire consultants beneficial to the welfare of the people of Panglao.
Panglao town is the location of the future New Bohol Airport and about half an hour away from capital Tagbilaran City. Panglao town shares the island of Panglao with the town of Dauis.
As a first time mayor, back in 2013, she needed help in running her fledgling government, which was her reason for hiring consultants.
Montero said she would exhaust all legal means to defend herself against the charges leveled against her.
The mayor said she never really gave much attention to the charges filed against her, citing the moves could be politically motivated.
However, with the case now hanging in the balance, the mayor said she has no choice but to face the music and be ready for a legal battle.
The Ombudsman on Tuesday released information to the media. Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales ordered the filing of one count of violation of Section 3(e) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act and four counts of Unlawful Appointment against Montero.
The release also said the lady mayor from Panglao was found guilty of simple misconduct and was ordered suspended for three months.
In its findings, the Ombudsman found in July 2013; Montero appointed four losing candidates in the 2013 elections as consultants earning P25,000.00 per month.
Records showed Montero hired Noel Homarchuelos as municipal administrator/consultant for administrative services; Danilo Reyes as public information consultant; Apolinar Fudalan as Public Employment Service Office Coordinator/IT consultant; and Fernando Penales as infrastructure/engineering consultant.
The consultants were hired on a job order basis to serve the mayor without executing any contract of service or issuance of any appointment paper duly reviewed and approved by the Sangguniang Bayan (town council), said the release from the Ombudsman.
Ombudsman, upon investigation, found that the contracts and daily time records of the four consultants were not available.
The Commission of Audit. in the Annual Audit Report for 2013, said: “the payment of their services was effected even without their duly approved accomplishment reports and individual contracts in violation of Section 4(6) of the Government Auditing Code.”
The Ombudsman ruled, “the Local Government Code provisions prohibit and disqualify Hormachuelos, Reyes, Fudalan,andPenales within one year after such election to be appointed to any public office in the government.”
“Respondent in appointing them to vital positions in the municipality, certainly granted them unwarranted benefits and caused due injury to the government equivalent to the amount of the compensation they received during the time of their temporary disqualification,” said Morales.
POLITICAL WAR HEATS UP
It appears the controversy around the case may be just the tip of the iceberg. This early the political cracks in Panglao have begun to surface after Montero went on the offensive against her chief political rival, town councilor Rogelin Degoma.
Montero cited Degoma as her chief rival in politics during the interview with the Bohol Tribune. However, it was not Degoma who filed the case, leading to the filing of charges and suspension of the lady mayor for 90 days.
Augustin Cloribel, a former political ally, filed the case against Montero.
It is widely knownthat Montero and Degoma have been trading barbs in social media. The exchanges often draw plenty of reactions from netizens. Social media has become a fertile battleground for the two protagonists to exchange their opinions.
After the news came out about the impending suspension and the order to indict Montero, Degoma went to Facebook to share her sentiments.
Degoma said she “felt sad” to learn about the incident and she shares the same sentiment of themajority of the people in Panglao about the circumstance of the local chief executive.
The kagawad said she remembered how she stood to oppose the move citing it might run counter to provisions of law. It seems, she has vindicated, after the Ombudsman cited the mayor.
In her Facebook post, Degoma said there should have been legal and procedural requirements done before the appointments. She claimed her pleas to the lady mayor fell on deaf ears.
“Hinumdumi nalang ang mga pagbabag ni Degoma, arun unta maminaw pod mo. Pero saun man ang pobre ug maute dagway dili gyud paminawon… ampo nalang atong mahimo ani,” said Degoma on Facebook in relation to the predicament of the lady mayor.
She added: “I am looking forward to changes in government and behaviors of the people in public service.”
Montero thinks the moves against her are politically motivated. For one, the case was filed by a political opponent, she said. Despite the bad blood, the lady mayor cleared Degoma of any hand behind the case, as Cloribel was the one who filed the charges.
Degoma expressed apprehension after rumors have circulated in the town pinning her down as the one who filed the case. She was warned about possible action as rumors circulatedin the town that she was the one behind the filing of the case, which is farthest from the truth.
She told the Tribune she never went out of her way to file a case against the mayor.
However, while Montero appreciates the gesture, she did not hold back in her tirades against Degoma over the airwaves.
Montero said the officialdom of Panglao hadbeen united in pushing for progress and development, save for one–she bluntly called out Degoma as the one who remains a key stumbling block in the push for Panglao’s development.
Citing records, Montero said while the kagawad is projecting a cute image in public, she is far from being “cute” when she moves to disrupt the harmony and the vision for Panglao’s development.
100% RUNNING NEXT POLLS
Montero said she would be running for a third and final term come 2019 elections.
She cited the need to complete her reforms to hand a better Panglao to the next administration.
While being in politics has taken a toll on her health, she is driven to get a fresh mandate again from the people come 2019.
She bluntly declared her intent to run for the top position in Panglao.
The mayor thinks Degoma has her sights to run for mayor. If this happens, it will be a one-on-one battle between two women for the top position in Panglao.
THINGS SHE’LL BE DOING WHILE SUSPENDED
Montero said if the worse comes, she may have to hold back and focus on other aspects of her life and business.
The mayor said she knows the town will be in good hands even without her.
The unity between her and Vice Mayor Pedro Fuertes has been stronger than ever.
The concept of unity is her comfort zone knowing the town will move forward and be able to follow up with the key developments, while she serves her suspension.
Montero said she would have more time tending to her resort business. The mayor’s family owns the Alona Tropical Resort.