Gov. Cua confident of people’s support: One-year suspension to end June 30, 2019
posted 12-May-2019  ·  
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Governor Joseph Cua’s one-year suspension by the Ombudsman will actually end on June 30, 2019 upon his current term’s expiration, pursuant to Section 66(b) of the Local Government Code of 1991.

This was stressed by his campaign team last week as Cua expressed confidence that the people of Catanduanes would continue to stand by him until the May 13, 2019 national and local elections.

Last April 30 at 2:15 P.M., the duly elected chief executive of the province received the order from Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) regional director Atty. Anthony Nuyda directing Cua to continue to cease and desist from performing the functions and responsibilities of his office until the suspension for one year without pay is fully served.

Also suspended without pay for six (6) months and one (1) day is Bato Mayor Eulogio Rodriguez.

Sec. 66(b) of the LGC states that “the penalty of suspension shall not exceed the unexpired term of the respondent or a period of six (6) months for every administrative offense, nor shall said penalty be a bar to the candidacy of the respondent so suspended as long as he meets the qualifications required for the office.”

The Ombudsman order itself clarifies that in the event that the penalty of suspension can no longer be enforced due to separation from the service “such as but not limited to retirement, resignation, or expiration of the term of office,” it shall be converted into a fine in the amount equivalent to the respondent’s salary for one (1) year, in the case of Gov. Cua, and six (6) months and one (1) day in the case of Mayor Rodriguez.

The fine shall be payable to the Office of the Ombudsman and may be deductible from the respondent’s retirement benefits, accrued leave credits or any receivable from his office, the Ombudsman stated.

The DILG order was in implementation of the decision of the Ombudsman dated April 22 and approved on April 24 by Ombudsman Samuel Martires.

While the Omnibus Election Code prohibits the suspension of local elective officials within the election period, it allows the same when the suspension is with prior approval of the Commission on Elections or when such suspension is for the purpose of applying the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

It may be recalled that the Ombudsman preventively suspended Cua for six months on Jan. 11, 2019 on the basis of a complaint was prepared by a known critic of the governor and the Bato mayor and signed by former congressional candidate Rey Mendez, who accused the duo of abuse of authority, conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service, dishonesty and grave misconduct.

Mendez alleged that Cua allowed ERR Construction, a company owned by the Bato mayor, to use the vacant lot beside the Land Bank branch free of charge and without authority granted by the Sangguniang Panlalawigan.

He claimed that the lot, on which the former JMA Theater once stood, was used as bunkhouse for the company’s employees as well as garage for heavy equipment and construction materials from January 2017 until March 26, 2018. The company moved out of the property after a certain Mr. Esplana of Legazpi City sent a letter questioning the use of the property to the damage of the public.

At the time, allies of the governor had raised the possibility that the filing of the complaint and preventive suspension was politically-motivated, alleging that the camp of Congressman Cesar Sarmiento had been bragging that “something big would happen” to Gov.  Cua before 2018 was over.

In resolving the complaint, the Ombudsman dismissed the charges for Grave Misconduct, Abuse of Authority, Conduct Prejudicial to the Best Interest of the Service and Dishonesty against the governor for lack of substantial evidence.

However, it found Cua administratively liable for Gross Neglect of Duty while Rodriguez was held liable for Conduct Prejudicial to the Best Interest of the Service.

“Cua, given his rank and level of responsibility, is guilty of gross neglect of duty in not ensuring that government property is utilized and managed properly,” a special panel of investigators stated. “In so doing, he gave undue benefits to E.R. Construction, a private entity.”

On the part of Mayor Rodriguez, the probers averred that his conduct in using the province’s property for his private business tarnished the image and integrity of the Office of the Mayor of the Municipality of Bato.

“His defenses are unavailing given the positive witness statements affirming that Rodriguez was seen several times in the subject property ‘instructing his workers.’ The service vehicle of the Municipality of Bato was also observed to have parked therein,” it stated.

It stressed that as an elective government official, Rodriguez is expected to be aware of government policy on the use of government property for public purpose.

“Despite this, Rodriguez made use of the same through his private contracting company even without proper authorization, to the damage and prejudice of the government,” the panel concluded.

The other charges against him were dropped for lack of evidence.

Subsequent to the service of the suspension order, Vice Governor Shirley Abundo was installed as Acting Governor while Bato Vice Mayor Roy Regalado took over the reins of the municipal government.

The camp of Gov. Cua said they will file an appeal with the Court of Appeals and pursue all available legal means to overturn the Ombudsman decision.

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