Former Mayor Esther Fostanes-Tabigue who served for six years from 2010-2016 as mayor of Mabini was metedÂ out the administrative penalty of perpetual disqualification to re-enter government service by the Office of the Ombudsman after she was found guilty of grave misconduct.
The Ombudsman, in a criminal complaint, also found probable cause to indict Tabigue for four counts of violation of the Cockfighting Law of 1974 (PD 449) and four counts of violation of section 3(j) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act (RA 3019).
The criminal and administrative complaints filed by Danilo Du, a cockpit owner and operator on December 23, 2013 stemmed from the “unjustified refusal” of Tabigue to issue a permit to operate his cockpit, allowing the holding of four cockfighting events beyond the number of times cockfighting is allowed by law in a year and approving cockfighting activities in an unlicensed cockpit, park or playground.
Tabigue was also sued by Du for dishonesty for using a falsified letter-response in court which the Ombudsman dismissed for lack of basis.
Since Tabigue has been out of government service following her defeat in the 2016 mayoral elections when she ran for reelection against the present Mayor Juanito Jayoma,Â the penalty of dismissal was converted into a fine equivalent to her salary as mayor for one year.
In a 15-page decision on the administrative complaint filed by Du, the Ombudsman found Tabigue’s unjustified refusal to grant the desired permit to operate his cockpit despite compliance with the requirements as “oppression.” and imposed the penalty for the higher administrative offense for “grave misconduct.”
Du was granted a franchise to operate a cockpit in Mabini since August 17, 2009 and was issued a permit by then-Mayor Stephen Rances in 2010 and was permitted by Tabigue to operate the cockpit with the renewal of his license on January 7, 2013.
However, after the October 15, 2013 earthquake that devastated Bohol, Tabigue turned down Du’s renewal application on the grounds that his cockpit was structurally unstable despite a certification from the municipal engineer that “the cockpit arena is still structurally strong and firm.”
Tabigue also refused to renew the license of Du on the grounds that it was situated in a residential zone and ordered the municipal treasurer to defer accepting payments forcing Du to consign to the court Php11,613.00 for business tax, regulatory fees and other charges.
The former Mabini mayor argued that her refusal to issue business permits to Du “was moved by her desire to ensure the safety of her constituents citing non- compliance of requirements of a concrete parking area, Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) official receipts, certificate of occupancy and approved as-built plans of the cockpit.
Tabigue also required Du to introduce noise pollution measures during cockfights, an ecological solid waste management plan and a certification that the cockpit is not located in a residential area.
But the Ombudsman disagreed with Tabigue saying that Du had already substantially complied with the requirements as early as 2012 and reprimanded her for excessively using her authority when she denied complainant his permit to operate a cockpit.
The Ombudsman admonished Tabigue that while the granting of permits is discretionary, such authority must be exercised with wisdom.
The Ombudsman took to task Tabigue for approving the holding of illegal cockfights in several unauthorized areas “but adamantly refused to permit the operation of a cockpit that has been recognized as the licensed cockpit of the municipality since 2009.”
Tabigue allowed the holding of cockfighting in Barangay Lungsudaan on September 26-27, 2013 and Barangay Abad Santos on January 13-14, 2014.
The approval of Tabigue to hold cockfights in violation of the Cockfighting Law of 1974 was construed by the Ombudsman as “indirectly taking part in the holding of an illegal cockfight.”
The administrative decision and the criminal resolution were both approved by Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales on February 24, 2017.Â (Chito M. Visarra)