The provincial office of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) is ready to serve the dismissal order issued by the Office of the Ombudsman against Panglao Mayor Leonila Montero.
A highly-placed source at the DILG Central Office bared to the Chronicle yesterday that Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año signed the order to implement the dismissal order of Montero as early as Thursday.
Ma. Lousella Lucino, provincial director of the DILG, however, said she is waiting for the order to be transmitted to her office, having learned that the Ombudsman modified an earlier decision suspending Montero for 3 months without pay and instead ordered the Panglao mayor dismissed from the service.
It may be recalled that the Ombudsman, in a Decision dated October 24, 2017, found Montero guilty of simple misconduct due to her appointment of four (4) party-mates who were defeated during the May 2013 elections to government positions.
Montero, through her lawyers, filed a motion for reconsideration asking the Ombudsman to nullify said ruling while simultaneously elevating the case to the Court of Appeals (CA) – Cebu through a petition for certiorari.
However, in a Joint Order dated 19 January 2018, the Ombudsman denied Montero’s motion for reconsideration while granting instead complainant Augustin Cloribel’s motion asking the graft body to reconsider its decision and to hold the mayor guilty of grave misconduct and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service.
The Joint Order of the Ombudsman upgraded the penalty meted against Montero from suspension of 3 months without pay to dismissal from the service with the accessory penalties of cancellation of eligibility, forfeiture of retirement benefits and perpetual disqualification from holding public office.
Lucino told the Chronicle she would implement the dismissal once she receives the order from the DILG central office.
Montero, who has been serving her suspension for 3 months since January 12, refused to issue a statement when reached for comment. The Chronicle, however, learned that the beleaguered mayor has recently engaged a Manila-based law firm to assist her in elevating her case at the CA.
Montero’s new lawyers have asked an extension of 15 days to file a petition for review while asking the appellate court to issue a temporary restraining order (TRO) and injunction.
But, according to Lucino, even if Montero files an appeal against her dismissal, the DILG will have to be implemented.
“Unless a TRO in favor of Montero is granted by the CA, the mayor’s dismissal must be enforced,” Lucino explained.
CA JUNKS TRO ON SUSPENSION
Meanwhile, the CA Special 20th Division in Cebu City junked Montero’s petition for certiorari that also asked for a TRO to stop her 3-month suspension.
In a 10-page Decision dated 22 February 2018, the appellate court’s 20th Division said that decisions of the Ombudsman in administrative cases shall be executed “as a matter of course” and that the pendency of an appeal will not stop its immediate implementation.
In denying Montero’s petition, the CA said that the Ombudsman’s imposition of the mayor’s suspension through the DILG is not only supported by its rules of procedure but is also recognized as valid, lawful and regular by the Supreme Court.
The CA ruling recognized that, in administrative cases, the Ombudsman can immediately implement penalties, such as suspension or dismissal from the service.