The Supreme Court (SC) has stopped the Office of the Ombudsman from enforcing the suspension of Lipa City, Batangas Mayor Meynardo Sabili after the anti graft body found him guilty of conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service.
Sabili was penalized by the Office of the Ombudsman for nine months and was ordered to step down as mayor of Lipa City.
He immediately sought refuge with the Court of Appeals (CA) by filing a petition for a temporary restraining order (TRO) that seeks to stop his suspension.
The CA, however, rejected the plea for the issuance of the TRO, forcing Sabili to ask for help from the High Court.
A source of The Manila Times said Sabili is “not in good terms” with Sen. Ralph Recto and his wife, Batangas Rep. Vilma Santos-Recto.
The SC 2nd Division on October 5, 2016 issued a TRO and ordered the Office of the Ombudsman and the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) not to implement the suspension order against Sabili.
“The court without necessarily giving due course thereto, resolves to:.. Issue, effective immediately and continuing until further orders from this court, a temporary restraining order, enjoining respondents, the Court of Appeals, the Office of the Ombudsman and the Department of the Interior and Local Government, their agents, representatives and anyone acting in their behalf from implementing the decision dated 9 August 2016 of the Office of the Ombudsman in OMB-L-A-15-0313,” the SC resolution read.
The SC resolution was signed and promulgated by lawyer Ma. Lourdes Perfecto, Division Clerk of Court of the SC 2nd Division.
The High Court also ordered the Ombudsman and the DILG “to file comment thereon, not a motion to dismiss within 10 days from notice.”
An eight-page decision of the Ombudsman that was signed by Graft Investigation and Prosecution Officer Kristine Suzanne Fineza and approved by Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales ordered the suspension of Sabili after holding the mayor administratively liable.
The case stemmed from a complaint filed on March 12, 2015 by Oscar Camerino, Efren Camerino, Dionisia Enriquez, Gerardo Enriquez, Conrado Enriquez, Ramon Enriquez, Virgilio Enriquez, Mildren del Rosario, Nick del Rosario and Nielbert del Rosario as they are the registered owners of three parcels of land located at Victoria Homes, Tunasan, Muntinlupa City (Metro Manila).
In a Memorandum of Agreement dated March 11, 2010, complainants authorized Sabili, who was a private lawyer at the time, to represent them in settlement of cases and in all other transactions involving the Victoria Property in exchange for 50,000 square meters.
On June 30, 2010, Sabili became mayor of Lipa City and was reelected during the May 2013 polls.
Complainants alleged that they engaged the service of Sabili as he represented himself as a lawyer and real-estate broker when in fact he was neither.
They alleged that Sabili harassed them by filing a civil case against them for specific performance and damages to deliver to him his share of the property even though he was not in any way helpful to them.
The complainants claimed that Sabili “accompanied by armed men, even went to the subject property on 15 July 2012” and uttered threatening words against them.
The incident prompted them to accuse Sabili of grave misconduct, dishonesty and grave abuse of authority.
Sabili denied the accusation and said he could no longer be charged in view of the Aguinaldo doctrine, which had condoned his past acts in view of his reelection in 2013.
The Ombudsman’s ruling argued that Sabili cannot invoke the Aguinaldo doctrine anymore in view of the Supreme Court ruling in the case of Ombudsman vs. Makati Mayor Jejomar Erwin Binay Jr. wherein the SC ruled that the Ombudsman can proceed with findings of administrative liability since it shall be “prospective in application.”
The anti-graft body ruled that Sabili’s remarks and use of armed men is a display of influence and power that could hold him liable.
“Respondent’s [Sabili] act of uttering threatening remarks while being escorted by armed men and introducing himself as Lipa City mayor is, undoubtedly, a haughty display of influence and power for which he should be held administratively liable,” the ruling stated.