Agusan Sur mayor, 6 others charged over land deal

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THE Office of the Ombudsman has found basis to file graft and technical malversation cases before the Sandiganbayan against Mayor Johnmark Billanes of Trento town in Agusan del Sur over alleged irregularities in a P1-million land deal brokered with his brother in 2012.

Also facing indictment for alleged graft are former Vice Mayor Victoria Plaza; Sangguniang Bayan members Edwin Demegillo, Pedro Mordeno and Leona Magno; incumbent Sangguniang Bayan member Ludy Andale; and the mayor’s brother Romeo Billanes Jr., owner of the 7,775-square-meter property located along the national highway of Poblacion in Trento.

The Ombudsman’s ruling is subject to a motion for reconsideration.

A statement issued by the Ombudsman on Wednesday said the accused officials allegedly gave unwarranted benefits, advantage or preference to Romeo supposedly through manifest partiality or evident bad faith because his property was allegedly identified for acquisition prior to the appraisal of the land.

The Ombudsman further alleged in its resolution that no ordinance was passed by the Sangguniang Bayan to realign the P1-million fund and the land acquisition was for a different purpose from the original appropriation.

To facilitate payment, the Sangguniang Bayan allegedly passed a resolution supposedly to borrow P1 million from the 2012 appropriations for the rehabilitation of the farm-to-market road to finance acquisition of lot for the proposed rice processing center.

The Ombudsman also found Billanes, Demegillo, Plaza, Andale, Mordeno and Magno administratively liable for grave misconduct and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service and ordered their dismissal.

The accused also face cancellation of eligibility, forfeiture of retirement benefits and perpetual disqualification from reemployment in the government service.

In its decision, the Ombudsman directed the Department of the Interior and Local Government to implement the dismissal order, which is convertible to a fine in case the respondents are no longer in the service.

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