COA: No law violated in donated land for Dagupan City Hall

DAGUPAN CITY — The Commission on Audit (COA) said the donation of 1.2-hectare land to the city government here to be the site of the new Dagupan city hall does not constitute a violation of law even if the donor is the younger brother of Mayor Belen T. Fernandez.

This was the legal opinion of Atty. Robert V. Ocampo, city auditor of Dagupan in his letter to Councilor Jose Netu Tamayo, chair of the committee on laws, ordinances and judiciary in the Dagupan City council dated 10 July 2017, in response to the query of the latter also on July 10, 2017.

In Ocampo’s letter, which was bared to newsmen in a joint conference called by Mayor Fernandez and Tamayo at CSI Stadia on Tuesday afternoon, he stated that donation is an act of liberality whereby “a person disposes gratuitously of a thing or right in favor of another, who accepts it.”

Ocampo said all persons who may contract and dispose of their property may make a donation. All those who are not specifically qualified by law therefore may accept donations, he added.

“Under the law, donation is a contract and the consideration is liberality. Take note that all persons who have the capacity to contract may dispose his property through donation and all those who are not disqualified by law may accept the donation,” he said.

In the case at bar, Mr. Kerwin T. Fernandez though the brother of the City Mayor, may donate his property as an act of liberality to the City Government of Dagupan and the latter through the authority from the city council , may accept the donation as representative of the City.

COA Auditor Ocampo said a donation, as a mode of acquiring ownership, results in an effective transfer of title over the property from the donor to the donee and once a donation is accepted, the donee becomes the absolute owner of the donated property.

The sub-issue on expected increase in the value of properties of CSI should the new City Hall project will be transferred and this City Mayor Fernandez violated Republic Act 3019 for conflict of interest “is misplaced”.

CSI is a firm owned by the Fernandezes with Kerwin as president.

Should there be increase of value of properties in the area where the new Dagupan Cituy Hall is located, not only the value of property be increased but all the properties near and along the De Venecia Road will also increase, he added.

“Conflict of interest” arises when a public official or employee is a member of the board, an officer, or a substantial stockholder of a private corporation or owned or has a substantial interest in business, and the interest of such corporation or business, or his rights or duties therein, may be opposed to or affected by the faithful performance of official duty, he said.

Ocampo stressed that the acceptance of the donation cannot be considered as conflict of interest because the donee is not the City Mayor but the City Government of Dagupan as the true owner of the donated property.

He said that based on this, the donation made by Mr. Fernandez to the City Government of Dagupan of his owned lot, intended for the new site of Dagupan City Hall, is considered valid, legal and binding, provided there is acceptance by the City Mayor as authorized by the city council.

The letter of Ocampo was presented during the press conference because of the allegation by one city councilor that the donation smacks of graft and corruption and that Mayor Fernandez would be committing a case of conflict of interest since the donor is her own brother and if the city hall is built on the donated land, her brother and family will be benefited because of the expected increase in the value of property in the area. Leonardo Micua/