Court reduces suspension of Pangasinan town officials

ASINGAN, Pangasinan — The Office of the Ombudsman has reduced the one-year suspension of the mayor and vice mayor of this town, whose names and photos appeared in the municipal ambulance in 2017, to just one month without pay following their filing of a motion for reconsideration (MR).

In an order issued by the Ombudsman, it was stated that the MR filed in December 2017 by incumbent Mayor Carlos Lopez, Jr., then vice mayor; and incumbent Vice Mayor Heidee Chua, then mayor of this town, was reconsidered.

The first decision of a one-year suspension signed by then Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales was handed down on December 13, 2017.

The two were suspended due to the case filed by then councilman Evangeline Dorao in November 2016 for alleged “Conduct Prejudicial to the Best Interest of the Service; Grave Abuse of Authority; Grave Misconduct; and Failure to Act Promptly on Letters”.

The two then filed an MR on the decision of the Ombudsman.

In their separate motions, Chua said she had “substantially complied with the demand of the complainant to remove the stickers attached to their municipal ambulance; that her act is not similar to those instances defined under existing jurisprudence as Conduct Prejudicial to the Best Interest of the Service”.

Lopez reasoned “records do not show his participation in the placing of the subject stickers to their municipal ambulance; and that he responded to complainant’s letter demanding the removal of the subject stickers in front of the whole municipal council of Asingan”.

The decision on their MR was signed by Ombudsman Samuel Martires on August 30, 2019. Lopez received his copy through mail on Tuesday while Chua received her copy on Wednesday.

The Ombudsman said the installation of vehicle stickers with the name and photo of Chua and Lopez Jr. do not tarnish the image and integrity of their office, but amounts to misconduct, thus reducing the penalty to one-month suspension without pay for simple misconduct.

“Justice delayed, justice denied. Pero masaya kami ni Mayor Lopez dahil nai-serve na yong justice sa pamamagitan ng decision na ito. Ito ang kapalit ng aming mga dasal, ng taos-pusong paglilingkod sa mga tao, (but we are happy now because justice has been served with the decision),” Chua said at a press conference Wednesday.

“During the suspension, we continued to serve the people as private citizens. During the campaign, we were still welcomed by the people. The result of the last election was overwhelming,” Lopez said

The two said they will have a meeting with their respective lawyers and discuss the next steps, especially on the matter of back salaries and benefits for the 11-month suspension they had served.

The decision on MR of the officials was released 18 months after it was filed.

The two complied with the suspension order from January 20, 2018, to January 20, 2019, then reported back to the office and elected back to the municipal government. Liwayway Yparraguirre / PNA –