Pangasinan mayor questions suspension by Ombudsman

ASINGAN, Pangasinan — Municipal Mayor Heidee Chua believes that the one-year suspension slapped by the Office of Ombudsman on her and Vice Mayor Carlos Lopez Jr. for a simple misconduct of putting their photos on the town’s newly purchased ambulance and on other government projects and only for a first offense “is too harsh”.

Interviewed by newsmen Monday, a few days after learning of their suspension, Chua finally broke her silence on the issue and said she and Lopez already filed a motion for reconsideration after receiving a copy of the decision of the Ombudsman.

She said her legal team is now exhausting all legal remedies to have their suspension reversed.

Both officials were suspended for simple misconduct, misconduct prejudicial to the interest of service and for violation of Section 5 (a) of Republic Act No. 6713 or the Code of Conduct on Ethical Standard for Public Officials and Employees in a decision handed down by Deputy Ombudsman Gerald Mosquera and approved by Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales.

The DILG was directed by the Ombudsman to implement the decision.

Chua said she nevertheless welcomed the decision of the Ombudsman on the  complaint filed by Evangelina Dorao, a municipal councilor, saying it is a wake-up call to all those in the position as well as those who are not.

“At the end of the day, we were charged for simple misconduct. Who is not shocked by the decision of the Ombudsman?” asked Chua, referring to the one-year suspension without pay slapped on her and Lopez.

The mayor said that pertaining to the DILG memorandum circular  No. ‎2010-101 that she and Vice Mayor Lopez allegedly violated, she maintained that it prescribes no penalty for violators and appeared as  just a reminder to them and other local executives.

She likened this to a memorandum circular for the wearing of uniform but no one is being punished because there was no penalty prescribed.

“This is a wake-up call for agencies implementing the law, like the DILG and even Congress to amend the circular pertaining to such a case to make sure it must be well defined,” she said.

“It is unfair to all of us in public service to be slapped with a one-year suspension for just a simple misconduct and for acts committed in good faith,” she added.

The mayor said they already removed their pictures and names in the municipal ambulance on the first week of November last year after receiving two letters from the complainant, Councilor Dorao, the month before.

“As far as I’m concerned I did not violate anything. I did not harm my constituents by placing my picture and that of the vice mayor in the ambulance,” she said. “None of our constituents were hurt by our pictures”.

“It is too saddening because the one-year suspension is too harsh,” Chua said.

She said she and the vice mayor still continue to discharge their functions at present as  there is still a need for a writ from proper government agencies to execute the decision. Ahicam D. Pasion/