CA reverses Ombudsman dismissal of Ilocos Sur mayor

MANILAThe Court of Appeals (CA) has reversed the 2016 order of the Ombudsman which dismissed re-elected Mayor Jesus M. Sagay of Lidlidda, Ilocos Sur for alleged misconduct and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service.

In a decision issued Nov. 19 penned by Associate Justice Samuel H. Gaerlan, the CA partially granted the petition filed by Sagay who was re-elected mayor in his town in the 2016 elections.

The administrative and criminal complaint against Sagay was filed in 2014 by town councilor Romeo P. Duca.

The appellate court said the administrative complaint against Sagay was still covered by the 1959 condonation doctrine which extinguished the administrative liability of an elective public official once re-elected to the same post.

The condonation doctrine had been abandoned by the Supreme Court (SC) in a ruling handed down in November 2015. The SC, however, decreed that the abandonment is prospective in application, which means the ruling is enforceable upon the finality of the decision.

Considering that the complaint against petitioner (Sagay) was filed on 22 July 2014, the doctrine of condonation may still be applied. Petitioner was re-elected as Municipal Mayor of Lidlidda, Ilocos Sur by the same electorate that voted for him when the acts for which he was sought to be held administratively liable were committed, the CA said.

In view thereof, the issue on whether petitioner was indeed guilty of the acts imputed against him as to hold him administratively liable has been rendered moot and academic. Consequently, this Court is precluded from imposing the administrative sanctions against petitioner on account of the same people's decision to elect him again to office, it ruled.

While Sagay's administrative case was settled by the CA in his favor, the appellate court did not rule, for lack of jurisdiction, on the Ombudsman's finding on his alleged criminal liability for the reported violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act under Republic Act No. 3019.

The complaints alleged that in the setting up of demo farms for crops and livestock in Lidlidda town, Sagay opted to develop as a demo farm the lot owned by his sister in Barangay San Vicente.

It was also alleged that Sagay used the resources of the municipality, like laborers and equipment, without authority from the town council and despite a resolution from the council to stop the setting up of the demo farm, the mayor continued with the project.

Sagay said he and his family did not benefit from the use of his sister's land since it was utilized for free and payments for the products of the farm were directly deposited to the general fund of the municipality.

He also said the town's grader equipment was used only for one-and-a-half day and he paid for the fuel consumption, and the town laborers worked on the farm after their regular working hours.

The Office of the Ombudsman found him criminally liable for violation of the RA 3019 for causing undue injury to the municipality, and administratively liable for acting with evident bad faith and partiality in the performance of his official and administrative functions.

Sagay was ordered dismissed from the service, prompting him to elevate the issue before the CA. (PNA)

Source: Philippine News Agency

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