ASINGAN, Pangasinan: The municipal mayor and vice mayor here were both suspended for one year without pay by the Office of the Ombudsman for violating three administrative offenses when they placed their names and pictures in an ambulance acquired by the municipal government.
In a decision, a copy of which was obtained by The Manila Times, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales ordered Catalino Cuy, Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) acting secretary, for the immediate implementation of her order suspending respondents Mayor Heidee Ganigan-Chua and Vice Mayor Carlos Lopez,Jr.
The Ombudsman recommended that Chua be replaced by No. 1 Municipal Councilor Joshua Viray as acting mayor while No. 2 Councilor Mel Lopez will replace his brother Carlos as acting vice mayor.
The respondents cannot file any motion for reconsideration because the Ombudsman’s decision is already final and executory.
The case against Chua and Lopez stemmed from a complain-affidavit filed before the Ombudsman by incumbent municipal councilor Evangeline Dorao on November 4, 2016.
Dorao accused the respondents of grave misconduct, conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service and violation of Section 5 (a) of Republic Act 6173 or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees.
She claimed that the presence of names and images of respondents on the newly-acquired ambulance of the municipality funded by public funds constitutes a violation of DILG Memorandum Circular No. 2010-10, which bans the placing of names, initials, images or pictures of government officials on billboards and signages or on government programs, projects and property.
Before filing a case, Dorao wrote respondents separate letters dated October 10 and October 17, 2016 in which she demanded immediate removal of their pictures and names but these were left unanswered.
She said that aside from the ambulance, respondent’s images and names were also seen on signages of government projects and property and in schoolbags distributed to public high school and elementary school students.
The respondents filed their joint counter-affidavit denying all the allegations of Dorao, also claiming tha they immediately acted on her letter request dated October 10 and October 17, 2016 by removing their printed images and names during the first week of November 2016 before she filed the charges against them.