BAAO, Camarines Sur: The Office of the Ombudsman ordered dismissal from the service of Mayor Melquiades Gaite of this town after it recommended the filing of a graft case against him over an allegedly anomalous lease contract agreement for a public market.
Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales approved findings of Graft Investigation and Prosecution Officer Maricel Quilates against Gaite for grave misconduct and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service, as well as cancelation of his “eligibility, forfeiture of retirement benefits, perpetual disqualification from holding public office, and bar from taking civil service examinations.”
The decision stemmed from a complaint of incumbent town Councilor Dante Bismonte alleging that Gaite acted beyond his authority when he entered into a contract of lease with Lamvert Consolidated Complex Inc. (LCC) covering a 1,704.4 square meter area of the town’s public market for 25 years.
The Revised Market Code, however, limits the period of lease that may be validly entered into by the mayor to only five years.
The complaint argued that Gaite should have sought an authorization from the Sangguniang Bayan (City Council) to enter into such contract, citing a Department of the Interior and Local Government opinion stating that a “separate authority to enter into a contract with the management of LCC for 25 years is necessary.”
In its ruling, the Ombudsman affirmed Bismonte’s position, saying “the act of the respondent, a veteran local chief executive with almost two decades of experience, in entering into a contract of lease for a period beyond that provided in the Municipal Ordinance No. 3 amounts to a transgression of some established and definite rule of action more particularly unlawful behavior or gross negligence of a public officer.”
The Ombudsman also set aside the argument of Gaite, saying “the absence of prior authorization was ‘cured’ by the eventual ratification of the SB.”
It said the authorization made by the Market Awards and Regulation Committee allowing the duration of lease to be more than five years is beyond its power as the MARC is only a creation of the Sangguniang Bayan and thus “cannot contravene the law from which its rule-making authority has emanated. As the cliché goes, the spring cannot rise higher than its source.”
The Ombudsman affirmed that Gaite committed a corrupt act when he did not enforce the provision on “goodwill money” required by the ordinance, thus giving LCC unwarranted benefits.