New, old Puerto mayors facing graft probe
The Office of the Ombudsman has ordered the new Puerto Princesa mayor and vice mayor, along with the dismissed mayor and eight council members, to respond to grave misconduct and other administrative charges filed against them involving the creation of a new water district in the city.
In a Feb. 13 order, Margie Fernandez Calpatura, a director of the Ombudsman’s preliminary investigation, administrative adjudication and prosecution bureau, ordered dismissed mayor Lucilo Bayron, incumbent Mayor Luis Marcaida III and Vice Mayor Maria Nancy Socrates to answer charges they abused their authority in establishing the “Puerto Princesa Water System.”
Inquirer Palawan reporter Redempto Anda repeatedly tried to reach Bayron for comment but calls made and text messages sent to the dismissed mayor’s phone number went unanswered.
The officials are facing a complaint for grave abuse of authority, grave misconduct and other administrative violations under the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Government Officials and Employees, and the Local Government Code of 1991.
Based on the complaint filed by Advocates for Excellent Government, a civil society organization represented by Jose Maria Mirasol, it was Bayron who approved the city council resolution setting up the new water district.
The resolution stated that the new water district would be operated by the Puerto Princesa city government, as the existing Puerto Princesa Water District “is owned and managed by a private entity under the Local Water Utilities Authority.”
But the complainant argued that under the law, water districts should be not be operated by the local government.
Mirasol cited Section 6 of Presidential Decree (PD) No. 198, or the Local Water Utilities Act, which states that “once formed, a district is subject to the provisions of this act and not under the jurisdiction of any political subdivision.”
He described the city council resolution as a blatant violation of PD No. 198 under which the existing Puerto Princess City Water District was established in 1976.
The complaint said the city officials had no legal basis to pass a resolution creating a new water district for the city considering that the Puerto Princesa Water District had been in existence for 41 years already. The complaint was filed on Nov. 23.
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