The Office of the Ombudsman in the Visayas converted the penalty meted former City Administrator Rolando Villamor from suspension from service without pay for six months and one day, into a fine in the amount of his salary for six months.
This was after former executive assistant Moises de la Cruz filed a motion requesting the Ombudsman to modify its Jan. 26, 2015 decision in the administrative case he filed against Villamor since the latter is no longer connected with the city after he filed his certificate of candidacy for congressman of Bacolod in October last year.
De la Cruz filed an administrative case in 2014 against Villamor for conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service, dishonesty and misconduct.
Villamor was found guilty of conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service in the case filed against him by De la Cruz when he appeared as counsel for Galeno Construction Inc. in a civil case filed against the city government.
In his motion, De la Cruz said Villamor flaunted before the media and the general public that the decision to suspend him for six months and one day no longer has an effect on him because he is deemed to have resigned from the government service when he filed his COC for congressman on Oct. 16, 2015.
In its Dec. 15, 2015 order, the Ombudsman said it finds the motion filed by De la Cruz meritorious.
“It is settled that jurisdiction acquired at the time of filing of the administrative complaint is not lost by the mere fact that Villamor had ceased to be in office during the pendency of the administrative case,” it said.
In the event that the penalty of suspension can no longer be enforced due to respondent's (Villamor) separation from the service, the penalty will be converted into a fine in an amount equivalent to his salary for six months, payable to the Office of the Ombudsman, and may be deductible from his retirement benefits, accrued leave credits or any receivable from his office, the Ombudsman said.
It ordered a copy of the decision furnished the Mayor of Bacolod, who is directed to implement it, with the request to promptly submit the same to the Office of the Ombudsman.
The Ombudsman also directed that a copy be furnished the regional offices of the Civil Service Commission and Commission on Audit.
The order was penned by Maria Corazon Vergara-Naraja, graft investigation and prosecution officer ll, reviewed by Jane Aguilar, EIO B officer-in-charge, and approved by Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales.
Asked for his comment. Villamor said he has not reported to his office since Monday. He will check on the matter today.
Meanwhile, De la Cruz said the modified decision of the Ombudsman significantly emphasized the long-arm of the law. That even when a public official had already resigned or terminated his own service that pre-empted the implementation of the adverse decision against him, still he has to serve the penalty equivalent to a fine amounting to six months' salary.
“In the case of Villamor, who was then the City Administrator, his running for congressional office that considered him deemed resigned on Oct 16, 2015 will not prevent him from escaping the Ombudsman's penalty of six months' suspension from office but now converted into a fine equivalent to his six months' salary that will amount to hundreds of thousands pesos,” De la Cruz said.
“Villamor should not have publicly flaunted his mis-impression that he can no longer be penalized as that had invited my attention to move before the Ombudsman to modify its decision,” he said.
De la Cruz said Villamor should have instead revealed to the general public especially to the people of Bacolod City that what caused him to be penalized was that his co-respondent Mayor Monico Puentevella made incriminating statements against him during the investigation that put him (Vllamor) in more hot water.
“Villamor was practically pinned down by Puentevella during the investigation. These are supported by many documents in my file on this Ombudsman case,” De la Cruz added.*CGS
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