Ombudsman suspends Toledo City mayor Osmeña
29 August 2017
Mayor John Henry Osmeña of Toledo City, Cebu was ordered suspended from office for one year after the Ombudsman found him guilty of Grave Abuse of Authority. He is also set to face trial before the Sandiganbayan after the Ombudsman found probable cause to charge him with six counts of violation of Section 3(e) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act (Republic Act No. 3019).
At core of the controversy is Osmeña’s consistent and undue refusal to release the quarterly real property tax (RPT) shares of Barangay Daanlungsod in Cebu. Records showed that the barangay was supposed to receive a total of P17,733,264.80 as part of its RPT share for the period covering the last two quarters of 2014 and for the fiscal year of 2015.
In his counter-affidavit, the local chief executive claimed that there is a pending boundary dispute between Barangays Sangi and Daanlungsod and that there is an on-going case entitled “Barangay Sangi versus City of Toledo” pending before the Court of Appeals. Respondent further defended his action stating that “it is his duty to protect government funds and properties. Thus when his attention was called on a pending case regarding ownership of the real properties involved in the boundary dispute between the two barangays, he only thought of protecting the city’s public funds.”
In a Resolution approved on 09 August 2017, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales gave no credence to the defenses raised by Osmeña and stated that “the boundary dispute between the two barangays had long been settled.” Records showed that a Decision was already issued by the Sangguniang Panlungsod on 01 August 2008 which became final and executory in 2011 after the Regional Trial Court denied the appeal of Barangay Sangi. Under the Local Government Code, “there is no question that the SP has the jurisdiction to settle or resolve boundary disputes.”
According to Ombudsman Morales, “respondent’s bad faith becomes evident when despite the foregoing circumstances, [Osmeña], without basis, withheld the release of the real property tax shares of the Barangay Daanlungsod which caused the latter undue injury.” She cited again the Local Government Code which provides that “the [RPT] share of each barangay shall be released, without need of any further action, directly to the barangay treasurer on a quarterly basis within five days after the end of each quarter and shall not be subject to any liens or holdback or whatever purpose.”
The Ombudsman directed the Department of the Interior and Local Government to implement the suspension order. ###