Tuguegarao mayor ordered removed from office over street fair deal
BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya, Philippines — Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales has ordered the removal of Tuguegarao City Mayor Jefferson Soriano and the city administrator for grave misconduct over the conduct of a “baratillo” (street fair and flea market) for the city’s fiesta celebration last year.
In a 19-page decision on August 20, Morales said her office has found “substantial evidence” to hold Soriano and city administrator Ronald Brillantes liable for grave misconduct when they ordered the closure of a number of city roads and entered into a contract for the operation of a market without an authority from the city council.
“On the basis of the [evidence presented], this Office concludes that [Soriano and Brillantes] exhibited a ‘clear intent to violate the law or flagrant disregard of established rule,’” Morales said in the decision.
Soriano said he would abide by the Ombudsman’s order upon receiving an official copy of the notice to vacate his post.
“We respect the Ombudsman’s decision and we will not cling to our post. However, we will avail of the legal remedies afforded to us by law,” Soriano, a lawyer, said in a telephone interview from Tuguegarao City on Monday.
Brillantes, also a lawyer, said he would comply with the Ombudsman’s decision.
“I have not received an official copy of the decision, but if this [news] turns out to be true, then we will obey, and study the legal remedies that we can adopt,” he said.
The Ombudsman has directed the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) to implement the dismissal order as soon as it receives a copy of the decision.
Aside from dismissal, the Ombudsman has also barred the respondents from holding public office, ordered their retirement benefits forfeited, and canceled their civil service eligibility.
The case stemmed from a complaint filed by Tuguegarao City Councilor Maila Rosario Ting-Que over the staging of a temporary market and the subsequent closure of three city streets to accommodate stalls for two months, in time for the city’s annual fiesta events.
Records showed that Brillantes, acting under Soriano’s authority, entered into a contract with one Vicky Medina to operate the market. In a memorandum, Soriano ordered the closure of the roads, without prior consent from the city council.
Soriano and Brillantes, the Ombudsman said, committed grave misconduct for granting Medina “special treatment” by assigning her as “exclusive operator” of a flea market and carnival, without subjecting the deal to public bidding.
“It should be emphasized that the law prohibits the mere giving of an unwarranted benefit, advantage [or] privilege. The mere fostering of an ‘uneven playing field’ in the conferment of a public privilege is, in itself, injurious to public interest,” the decision said.
Soriano, a retired Philippine National Police official, was elected mayor of Tuguegarao in 2013, defeating Delfin Ting and ending the 25-year hold of the Ting family on the city’s top elective post.
In January, Soriano served a 90-day preventive suspension for his alleged involvement in the P34-million helicopter procurement anomaly during his 2009 stint as police deputy director general.
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