CATBALOGAN CITY — The Office of the Ombudsman, in a October 7, 2021 resolution, dropped the plunder charges filed by a city hall employee Jake Bernard Ramos against former City Mayor Stephany Uy-Tan and former VMayor Art Sherwin Gabon, and the rest of the members of the Sangguniang Panglunsod, for lack of merit and probable cause.

The Ombudsman ruled that there was no evidence of corruption in the actions taken by the respondents relative to the purchase of lots way back in 2016, which was used by the City government as relocation site of those displaced by typhoons in 2014 (Mercedes Landslide) and 2015.

The acquired land is now a host of various infrastructure projects of the City Government such as the Gawad Kalinga Project for displaced city residents, the City DepED Office Building, the City Evacuation Center, and other on-going support facilities.

“It was worthy of the sacrifice we endured and every cent that the City has spent, because it is now serving its purpose”, ex-Mayor Uy said.

The Ombudsman Complaint, which was lodged way back in 2017, has caused the Preventive Suspension for 6 months, of this city’s Officials, including several heads of office of the LGU.

Though the Court of Appeals (CA) has previously ruled that said preventive suspension was unnecessary, Mayor Uy stressed that City Officials action and decision to pursue the said Land Acquisition was based on the urgency of the situation.

The Ombudsman pointed out that though there was no illegality in the said land acquisition, and the respondents cannot be held criminally, it instead imposed a monetary fine equivalent to 3 months salary of some of the respondents.

The Ombudsman explained that the subject land was acquired and paid within the fair market value of the lots in said locations, and was already way below the offered price of other sellers, but the city government missed on renegotiating the offer made by the Laohoo brothers.

And though the passage and enactment of the Resolutions and Ordinances by the Sangguniang Panglunsod were appropriate and proper said the Ombudsman, citing further that the SP can approve many resolutions or ordinances in single session, it caused suspicion and doubts to its constituents.

The said instances according to the Ombudsman can be considered “simple misconduct”, but ruled that it cannot be viewed as “grave misconduct” as prayed for by the complaint.

Hence, the imposition instead of fines against some of the respondents.

On the other hand, ex-Mayor Stephany Uy-Tan explained that the haste pointed out by the Ombudsman was due to the deadline imposed by the Bank, which she said was already due at that time.

“It took us sometime to look for lots, makuri mamiling hin mapapalit nga tuna dinhe ha Catbalogan, though mayda kita tuna ha San Vicente, pero ako mismo nadire nga ikakadto naton an mga evacuees Kay kahirayo, salit pag inform han selection committee nga mayda barato nga offer ha Payao, our decision was to grab the opportunity”, Uy said.

Nonetheless, Uy reiterated that the acquisition process were proper as confirmed by the Ombudsman Ruling itself.