The Court of Appeals (CA) 12th Division, Manila reportedly granted the appeal of former Panglao Mayor Leonila Montero for an extension to file a petition for review on the denial of the Ombudsman of her motion for reconsideration and not a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) as falsely claimed by groups loyal to the dismissed mayor.
Reliable sources who requested not to be identified told the Chronicle that the order to grant the motion to extend the period to file the petition for review will discredit several posts in social media indicating that Montero secured a TRO from the CA paving the way for her return as mayor of Panglao.
The widespread attention generated by Facebook and text messages over Montero’s securing a TRO led to uncertainties and reluctance to perform their duties by a polarized bureaucracy prompting Mayor Pedro Fuertes to issue a stern warning to the municipal employees to focus on their jobs.
The “fake news” flew thick and fast drew criticisms from several sectors of the community even as some members of the mainstream local media apparently lapped up the story adding to the apparent misinformation without independent fact-checking.
According to Fuertes personal secretary and newly appointed Municipal Administrator Weng Lagura “all employees, elected or appointed have the highest respect for the justice system and will welcome any decision with regards to their employment status.”
REVIEW NOT TRO
The Chronicle learned from sources with intimate knowledge of the legal proceedings of the Montero case that a petition for review was filed before the CA 12th Division after the motion for reconsideration over her three-month suspension was dismissed by the Ombudsman and was reversed from suspension to dismissal.
Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales ordered the suspension of Montero on October 24, 2017 for three months without pay after finding her guilty of simple misconduct for appointing three of her PDP-Laban party-mates and a member of the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) to positions in the local government in violation of the one year ban on the hiring of losing candidates after an election.
However, Montero questioned her suspension in a motion for reconsideration which was junked by the Ombudsman in a decision on January 18, 2018 that instead ordered her dismissal from the service, canceled her eligibility, forfeited her retirement benefits and imposed the penalty of perpetual disqualification to hold public office.
Under the Rules of Procedure of the Office of the Ombudsman, only one motion for reconsideration or reinvestigation shall be allowed if new evidence had been discovered which materially affects the decision, order or directive and errors of facts or law, or irregularities have been committed prejudicial to the interest of the movant.
In an interview with the Chronicle, Montero who is on a holiday, expressed elation over the extension saying “I am glad that the court granted the petition of my lawyers although I haven’t been informed or seen the documents.”
When told by the Chronicle that her supporters used Facebook to spread her imminent return as mayor causing confusion and even insubordination among the employees of the municipality, Montero said; “I appeal to them for calm and put our trust on our courts of justice especially to our Lord Almighty.”
Montero was accused by Augustin Cloribel, a resident of Barangay Lourdes, Panglao and known as a vociferous critic of the mayor for grave misconduct, gross neglect of duty and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service before the Ombudsman-Visayas on August 14, 2015.
The complaint centered on Montero’s appointment of her PDP-Laban party-mates who lost in the 2013 elections – vice mayoralty candidate Noel Hormachuelos as municipal administrator/consultant for administrative services and candidates for municipal councilors, Danilo Reyes, public information officer and Apolinar Fudalan as public employment service officer (PESO) coordinator and livelihood (Tesda) and Information Technology consultant.
Montero also appointed Fernando Penales consultant on infrastructure and engineering services who ran and lost as municipal councilor under the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA).
In her defense, Montero maintained that the assailed appointments do not fall within the one year prohibition since they are on job order basis. (Chito M. Visarra)