SAN PEDRO, Laguna—The former head of a union at an agency overseeing Laguna Lake said the mayor of this town has lost his moral ascendancy to cling to his post following a Supreme Court decision that affirmed his conviction for graft and barred him from employment in government.
Marilou Directo, former president of the Concerned Employees of the Laguna Lake Development Authority (Cellda), said the conviction of Calixto Cataquiz for graft was the result of the tireless efforts of Cellda, the union of workers at LLDA, to bring Cataquiz to justice for corruption when the mayor was still general manager of LLDA.
Cataquiz, said Directo, “has already lost his moral ascendancy.” Cellda had petitioned for the ouster of Cataquiz as then LLDA general manager that led to the High Court’s ruling.
“I am personally happy because our efforts to fight corruption in the government were not put to waste,” said Directo in a phone interview on Wednesday.
Cataquiz, in a phone interview, said he didn’t feel he needed to step down as a result of the High Court decision. He said the people of this town would lose a leader if he quit. “I pity the people of San Pedro if this should affect my being their mayor,” Cataquiz said.
He refused to comment further and said his lawyers may file a motion for reconsideration of the Supreme Court decision.
Lawyer Discoro Pajutan, Laguna election officer, said he believed Cataquiz may not be stripped of his post as mayor or prevented from running for public office since he was an “elected official.”
Directo, however, said Pajutan’s statement could be just his opinion and has to be clarified.
She said the Supreme Court ruling should encourage rank and file employees to take an active role in the fight against corruption.
The High Court, in a decision last Tuesday, upheld a 2005 resolution of the Office of the President (OP) that was based on the findings of the Presidential Anti-Graft Commission (PAGC) imposing on Cataquiz the penalties of “disqualification from reemployment in the government service and forfeiture of retirement benefits.”
Penned by Justice Jose Catral Mendoza, the 27-page High Court decision also reversed the 2008 decision of the Court of Appeals that overturned the resolution of the OP and PAGC.
Cataquiz served as LLDA general manager in 2001 until his dismissal in 2003 “on the grounds of corrupt and unprofessional behavior and management incompetence.”
In its complaint at the PAGC, Cellda said Cataquiz disbursed P500,000 in LLDA funds, appropriated the agency’s funds as gifts for residents of his town, solicited funds to promote a film entry to the 2002 Metro Manila Film Festival and illegally entered into transactions with fish pen operators, including a Taiwanese company.
All the transactions were done without approval from the LLDA board, said the complaint.