Ombudsman indicts ex-Cebu city mayor for graft

MANILA-- Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales has found probable cause to indict before the Sandiganbayan former Naga City, Cebu Mayor Valdemar Chiong for violation of Section 3(e) of Republic Act No. 3019, or the "Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act".

The Ombudsman also found Chiong guilty of grave misconduct and gross neglect of duty, perpetually barring him from public service.

In case of separation from the service, the penalty is convertible to a fine equivalent to Chiong's salary for one year.

The case arose from Chiong's unlawful issuance of a mayor's permit to Petronas Energy Philippines (Petronas), a wholesaler of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG).

Records showed that the 2014 business permit was issued on April 7, 2014 despite Petronas' failure to present its fire safety inspection certificate.

In his defense, Chiong argued that he only issued a conditional mayor's permit as he had to act and use his discretion in addressing Petronas' pending application pursuant to his power.

In its resolution, the Ombudsman said that "Chiong deliberately violated the specific requirement of Section 5 (g) of R.A. No. 9514 (Fire Code) and in doing so, he gave unwarranted benefits, advantage, or preference to Petronas. This clearly shows gross inexcusable negligence and constituted Grave Misconduct and Gross Neglect of Duty on his part in the performance of his duties and responsibilities as a Mayor."

"His allegation that the Mayor's Permit issued is 'conditional' anyway does not negate the Grave Misconduct and the existence of probable cause against him because the issuance of a conditional business permit under DILG Memorandum Circular No. 2011-15 is allowed 'where the only lacking clearances are those of SSS, Philhealth and Pag-IBIG'," the Ombudsman added.

Section 5 (g) of RA No. 9514 states that, "no occupancy permit, business or permit to operate shall be issued without securing a Fire Safety Inspection Certificate from the Chief, BFP, or the duly authorized representative."

Under Section 3(e) of RA No. 3019, it shall be unlawful for public officials to cause any undue injury to any party, including the government, or giving any private party any unwarranted benefits, advantage or preference in the discharge of his official administrative or judicial functions through manifest partiality, evident bad faith or gross inexcusable negligence.

Source: Philippine News Agency