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Tuguegarao mayor seeks to retake post

/ 12:11 AM April 21, 2015

BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya—Dismissed Tuguegarao City Mayor Jefferson Soriano on Monday made known his intention to return to his former post, citing a Court of Appeals (CA) decision that supposedly overturned his removal from service by the Office of the Ombudsman.

On Monday morning, Soriano went to the City Hall and delivered his letter to Mayor Engelbert Caronan, informing the latter that he was taking over as mayor.

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“Pursuant to the decision of the [CA]… dated [April 16, 2015], and in faithful compliance thereof, I am hereby informing you that I am now assuming the official duties and functions as the duly elected city mayor of Tuguegarao City,” he said in the letter.

Along with the letter, Soriano attached a copy of the 18-page CA decision.

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But Caronan said he had not yielded the post, saying he would await an official copy of the CA ruling and a pronouncement from the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG).

“Based on the evaluation of our legal team, what was unofficially delivered to us was a photocopy of the decision, which is not an order for me to step down. We have already sought the intervention of the DILG on this matter,” Caronan told the Inquirer by telephone on Monday.

Caronan said it would continue to be “business as usual” in the city government until he gets an order from either the CA or the DILG to relinquish his post.

“Otherwise, I might be charged with abandonment [of office],” he said.

Tuguegarao Councilor Maila Rosario Ting-Que, the complainant in the administrative case that caused Soriano’s dismissal, said she and her lawyers have yet to receive their copy of the CA ruling.

“We will discuss our options once we receive the [CA decision] and verify if this information is true. It is just surprising that based on their records, the Office of the Ombudsman was not even furnished a copy of this order from the CA,” she said.

The Inquirer tried to reach Soriano but he did not reply to text messages and take calls on Monday.

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In September 2014, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales ordered the removal of Soriano and City Administrator Ronald Brillantes for grave misconduct for allowing the holding of a street fair and flea market and ordering the closure of some city roads without authority from the city council.

Soriano questioned the Ombudsman ruling, and filed an appeal in the CA. He, however, failed to secure a temporary restraining order, which paved the way for Caronan to be sworn in as city mayor.

A copy of the purported CA decision, circulated through social media by Soriano’s supporters, showed that the appellate court, through a special eighth division, revoked Soriano’s removal from office.

It modified the Ombudsman ruling, finding Soriano guilty of simple, instead of grave, misconduct. It downgraded his penalty from removal from office to a three-month suspension.

The CA said Soriano had already served that suspension.

“We credit [Soriano’s] suspension [to cover] the period during which [he] was removed from office … Considering that the period has exceeded three months, we order [Soriano to be] immediately reinstated,” said the CA, through Associate Justice Nina Antonio-Valenzuela.

The other members of the division are its acting chair, Associate Justice Jane Aurora Lantion, and Associate Justice Leoncia Dimagiba. Melvin Gascon, Inquirer Northern Luzon

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