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Bacolod City, Philippines Wednesday, February 17, 2016
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Lagarde's suit


Before discussing the facts of the suit filed by Simplicio Lagarde Jr. against Arnel Lapore, let me invite Lapore for a response. Although it is public knowledge that the two have become bitter enemies due to their strained relationships in the Central Negros Electric Cooperative, the case that Lagarde filed is public in nature. Lapore is being sued in his capacity as a public official.

Lagarde filed this case with the Ombudsman on March 20, 2015 and on October 2 the Ombudsman of the Visayas gave it due course and docketed it as IC-OVI-15-0048. The designation means this is under investigation so it is possible that Lapore has not yet received summons from the Ombudsman for a reply.

Under the circumstances, the issues are not yet joined but Lapore might have already known of this complaint. At any rate Lapore can give us his side of the case considering its serious implications on his person, his family, his brother in the DENR in Occidental Negros, his legal profession, his presidency in the Central Negros Electric Cooperative, his work in the Mayor's office in La Carlota, and several others.

The issue about his work in the office of the La Carlota City mayor was raised earlier, and Lapore had explained this matter in the column. Nevertheless Lagarde raised the issue with the Ombudsman and Lapore will be able to refute the allegations against him as he did previously.

Of course we are aware of the hot blood between Lagarde and Lapore, arising from the former's dismissal as general manager of CENECO through, Lagarde claims, the initiative of Lapore. But this suit involves Lapore's official and personal matters that while we can consider it as Lagarde striking back at Lapore, the case nevertheless is of public concern.

Moreover Lapore is a public officer, not only as employee in La Carlota City but also because he is president of CENECO, both positions requiring public trust. Indeed as CENECO president, he presides over a multi-million publicly owned enterprise that affects us all. His behavior, action or inaction is of public interest.

What is also interesting in this case is that Lagarde must have done a lot of sleuthing to find out what he could find against Lapore. This case is indeed a result of private investigation of a public officer, albeit prompted by a desire to take back what he lost. We recall that Lapore had terminated Lagarde on the issue of trust, and if inside information is to be believed, Lapore had warned his department heads of the possible return of Lagarde as mandated by the National Labor Relations Commission. Lapore questioned Lagarde's professional integrity, competence and trustworthiness. That must have struck hard Lagarde's sense of self-worth. An insult, if one says it more bluntly.

Regardless of Lagarde's personal intents, the facts he narrated cannot be kept under wraps for they involve the actuations and behavior of a public personality and the use of public funds.

Lagarde cited the Jan. 15, 2015 certification by the Civil Service Commission that claims that Lapore is an “executive assistant III of La Carlota City Government holding plantilla No. 03p.3 with a salary grade of 29 as certified by the Civil Service Commission.”

Earlier information said that Lapore had resigned from this position but was rehired with a lower grade, but only Lapore can make this claim credible with a certification from the La Carlota City government. Perhaps this will be cleared when or if we get a copy of his reply to the Ombudsman.

Lapore became president of CENECO in 2011, but he did not report his income from CENECO in his Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth or SALN. Indeed, in his 2013 SALN executed on March 18, 2014 there is no indication of income from CENECO. This fact, however can be explained because the SALN form does not provide space for income or its source. This information is in the income tax returns which Lagarde did not attach. Only Lapore's bank accounts were given.

The bigger blow is the alleged Lapore's vacation house in Salvador Benedicto. There is a photograph of a beautiful and expensive house which was not reported in Lapore's SALN. There are documentary proofs – assessor's registration and electrical permit in Lapore's name and a denied building permit since Lapore has not presented a title to the land.

This is just the beginning of another battle. Let's wait for Lapore's side. *




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