Ex-Zambo mayor barred from office

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The Office of the Ombudsman has ordered the disqualification from office of former Mayor Wilfredo Balais of Labason, Zamboanga Del Norte after he was found guilty of grave misconduct and dishonesty in connection with the allegedly anomalous and exorbitant purchase of a vehicle.

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The case stemmed from the Ombudsman’s findings that Balais sold a government vehicle —Nissan Patrol—to a certain Eduardo Ayunting in November 2010 for P500,000.

In January 2011, Ayunting signed a deal with the local government of Labason for the purchase of the same vehicle at P960,000 with the deed of sale signed by then-Vice Mayor Virgilio Go.

The Municipal Council later passed a resolution calling for the revocation of the contract calling the purchase “disadvantageous to the government.”

The Ombudsman pointed out that, “as the vehicle’s previous owner, respondent Mayor knew that the price was exorbitant having sold it two months earlier at a much lower price.”

“In fact, if (Balais) is truly concerned, he should have warned the respondent Vice mayor not to proceed with the sale, yet he did nothing until the sale was perfected,” it added.

Finding him guilty of grave misconduct and serious dishonesty, the Ombudsman dismissed him from the service and ordered him perpetually disqualified from holding public office with cancellation of civil service eligibility and forfeiture of retirement benefits.

In case the respondent is no longer in government service, the penalty of dismissal is convertible to a fine equivalent to his salary for one year.

Meanwhile, the Ombudsman also found former Municipal Accountant Christy Buganutan and Municipal Treasurer Melchor Chipoco guilty of neglect of duty and ordered them suspended for three months without pay.

“Their liability hinged on their act of processing the disbursement voucher and the check for payment of the vehicle despite non-compliance with procurement laws,” it said.

Last May, the Ombuds- man affirmed its ruling find- ing probable cause to file graft charges before the San-diganbayan against Balais, Go, and Ayunting for violation of Section 3(e) of Republic Act No. 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

 REINA TOLENTINO

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