The Visayas Ombudsman’s Office is looking into a complaint questioning the “mansion” of Mandue City Mayor Jonas Cortes in Mandaue City, a new two-story residence built in barangay Casuntingan.
The complaint was filed two years ago.
Deputy Ombudsman for the Visayas Pelagio Apostol yesterday confirmed that a fact-finding inquiry is ongoing, but declined to give details at this stage.
“Everything we do is confidential,” he said.
Mandaue City Administrator James Abadia said there was nothing wrong with the mayor’s new residence built on a 900-square meter lot purchased from a bank.
“The allegations that it is ill-gotten wealth is baseless,” said Abadia, who pointed out that the mayor and his 12 siblings inherited various properties from their parents, and could well afford the new house.
“Its perfectly within the SALN (Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth.) It is just a matter of reading the SALN correctly,” he told Cebu Daily News.
In December 2011, an urban poor group threatened with eviction asked the Ombudsman to conduct a lifestyle check on Cortes.
They claimed the mayor acquired “some other real and personal properties during his incumbency as city mayor.”
Roberto Litaba, president of the informal settlers group in sitio Philcadan in barangay Banilad, filed the complaint.
He cited in particular the “multi-million peso mansion” of the mayor which was being built at that time.
Litaba told CDN graft investigators made an occular inspection of the exterior of Cortes’s house two weeks ago. He said he had a standing agreement with the Ombudsman not to identify the investigators.
“I was the one who requested that the Office of the Ombudsman conduct an ocular inspection because how can he obtain (such) wealth if he has no multi-million business?” Letaba told Cebu Daily News
Letaba earlier sent the Ombudsman a photo of the house under construction.
Mayor Cortes granted CDN permission to shoot a photo of the exterior of the house but didn’t agree to be interviewed yesterday for this story.
In his letter dated Dec. 9, 2011 addressed to Apostol, Letaba said: “He (Cortes) has a
multi-million newly built house located at Sacres, barangay Casuntingan, Mandaue and to some other real and personal properties he has acquired during his incumbency as City mayor of Mandaue City,
Letaba cited the mayors SALN, which stated that his house was valued at P5.8 million while the furniture, appliances and fixtures inside were valued at P3.3 million.
The house was built in a 900 square meter lot s purchased in 2010 for P2.8 million. But Letaba said he believes the house costs more than what the mayor declared in his SALN.
Abadia, the Mandaue legal officer, told CDN all questions can be answered in the mayors SALN which lists down various property holdings.
He said he inherited several properties from his parents before he was elected mayor.
“After he became the mayor he consolidated his land holdings because his mother also passed away and he sold some property to his siblings.”
Abadia said the mayor sold his share to one of his siblings and he used the proceeds to build the house in Sacres Road in barangay Casuntingan.
“Lets be fair to Mr. Letaba because there are underlying political motives here. Some parties are riding on this for political reasons. What’s their proof that the wealth is ill-gotten?” Abadia said that he doesn’t know if the house should be considered a mansion since he is not an engineer or an architect.