MANILA, Philippines – Marikina City Mayor Del de Guzman and two other city officials were ordered suspended for six months without pay by the Office of the Ombudsman for not acting on a complaint regarding the illegal construction of a guard house, a steel gate and a lane hump in one of the city’s subdivisions.
Ordered suspended along with De Guzman for simple neglect of duty were Rommel Felipe, head of the City Transportation Management and Development Office and Barangay Concepcion Dos chairman Ronald Ortiz.
Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales did not penalize city engineer and building official Alfonso Espiritu because he retired last year.
De Guzman admitted receiving a week ago the Ombudsman’s decision, dated Feb. 14 and 28.
“We are fortunate that the Ombudsman dismissed the charges filed against us. However, they instead found us administratively guilty of a lesser charge of simple neglect of duty with a reprimand and a warning, which we are appealing thru a motion for reconsideration,” De Guzman said.
He said that as a re-elected public official, he is no longer covered by administrative sanctions for acts committed during his former tenure.
“The reprimand is unfortunate. But we cannot please everybody. As public officials, we are vulnerable to charges in the course of implementing our programs,” he said.
The three officials’ suspension stemmed from the construction by the North Rim View Residents Association in May 2011 of a guardhouse, a steel gate and a lane hump along Sunrise street.
Francisco Molina, a resident of adjacent Panorama street in Barangay Concepcion Dos, alleged that the structures caused traffic jams along Panorama street.
Molina, who noted that Sunrise street is a city road, filed a complaint with the offices of De Guman, Espiritu, Felipe and Ortiz.
In May 2011, Espiritu issued a certification that the guard house and steel gate were constructed without proper building permits and the lane hump was not cleared with the city engineer’s office.
Felipe, who conducted an inspection of the area, confirmed the existence of the structures. He and Espiritu called for the demolition of the guardhouse and the steel gate.
The matter was referred to lawyer Felorella Bandala-Almarez, officer-in-charge of the city legal office, who demanded that Remigio Leano Wan, chairman of the residents association, dismantle the illegal structures.
Wan filed a letter of appeal before De Guzman in July 2011. Molina submitted his opposition to Wan’s appeal and filed four motions for resolution to remove the illegal structures.
Molina said that in September 2011, he wrote De Guzman, asking the status of his appeal, but the mayor neither resolved the issue nor replied to his letter.
Molina – along with complainants Marcelo Mercado, Ma. Florina Cristales and Benedicto Pimentel – filed charges of grave misconduct, gross neglect of duty, and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service against the three officials with the Office of the Ombudsman in July 2012.
De Guzman claimed there is no simple neglect of duty on his part. He said he acted on the complaint by referring the matter to the acting city administrator to resolve the problem.
Felipe said Molina’s requests for the demolition and removal of the illegal structures were sent to the appropriate offices of the city government.
He added that the closure of the Sunrise street does not in any way impede or obstruct the passageway of private vehicles of the residents of Panorama street.
Ortiz claimed that he acceded to the homeowner’s association’s decision to close Sunrise street to transient vehicles due to the rising incidence of crimes in the area and after a series of dialogues with residents.
Neglect of duty
The Office of the Ombudsman found substantial evidence to hold De Guzman, Felipe and Ortiz liable for simple neglect of duty. All other charges were dismissed for lack of substantial evidence.
“While there is no evidence of flagrant and palpable intent to disregard the law, the evidence on record suffices to hold respondents liable for simple neglect of duty,” graft investigator and prosecution officer Daisy Grace Paas said.
She said the officials fell short of the reasonable diligence required of them when they failed to exercise due care and prudence in applying the law and in attending to the needs of the public, Paas added.
The Office of the Ombudsman ordered Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas to implement the decision.