For allegedly ordering several Local Government Unit (LGU) employees to “forcibly open the door of the office of the Vice-Mayor and remove the items enumerated in the inventory of items retrieved,” the Office of the Ombudsman (Visayas) required former Vice-Mayor Pedro Fuertes to implead Panglao Mayor Leonila Montero in his robbery complaint.
In a letter to Fuertes dated May 14, 2019, a day after the May 13, 2019, national and local elections, Acting Director Eduardo B. Rangleon of the Public Assistance and Corruption Prevention Bureau (PACPB) Visayas by the authority of the Ombudsman required Fuertes to amend his complaint-affidavit “by impleading Mayor Leonila Montero as respondent.”
Fuertes original complaint was against Panglao Municipal Budget Officer Catalino Sumaylo and 24 others and did not include Montero who is now serving a three-month mandatory preventive suspension imposed by the Sandiganbayan.
Fuertes complaint was considered a request for assistance (RAS) by the Office of the Deputy Ombudsman for the Visayas in view of the findings of Prosecutor Macario I. Delusa of the Provincial Prosecution Office of Bohol as to the participation of Montero in the alleged robbery and was docketed as RAS-V-19-0218.
Montero did not return a text message from the Chronicle requesting for a response to the Ombudsman order to Fuertes.
Part of the joint-counter affidavit signed by 20 of the 25 respondents of the robbery complaint stated “that, having been given clearance by the NBI-Bohol, Mayor Montero then requested us to assist in the retrieval of the documents and the cabinet from the Vice-Mayor’s office in order for the files to be assessed and acted upon.”
Fuertes told the Chronicle that the gist of his amended complaint was “because the original respondents said they were acting upon the orders of Montero” and was filed within ten days upon receipt of the letter as ordered by the Ombudsman.
Fuertes, in his complaint-affidavit filed before the Provincial Prosecutors Office on January 11, 2019, pointed at Catalino Sumaylo, Municipal Budget Officer and Alejandro Arbutante, Municipal Administrator as having led several persons “using force and intimidation with malice and criminal intent” break into his office thru the entrance of the Sangguniang Bayan (SB) session hall and carted off office documents and equipment.
The alleged robbery at 3:15 PM on December 27, 2018, was witnessed by the SB secretary and two employees of the office of the vice mayor and was captured on the “smartphone” of one of the witnesses.
The three witnesses claimed in their affidavits that two persons employed by a private company used electric drills to loosen the door locks of the SB session hall including the door of the office of Fuertes.
Under the supervision of Sumaylo and Arbutante, several LGU employees removed documents and hauled office equipment out of the office even changed the locks of both the doors of the SB and the Vice Mayor’s office, according to the witnesses affidavits.
The witnesses further said that the whole incident was witnessed by Police Corporal Ray Pacatang and Patrolman Jerson Entice of the Panglao Philippine National Police (PNP) Police Station.
NOT THE FIRST TIME
But according to Fuertes “this is the second time my office has been violated.” The first attempt was in the early morning of October 20, 2018, when neighbors spotted several unidentified persons lugging hollow blocks inside the building leading to his office. Later, witnesses reported to Fuertes that the door of his office was sealed with concrete hollow blocks.
The incident was also witnessed by four police officers of the Panglao PNP police station who were observed by bystanders as acting indifferent, according to Fuertes.
Fuertes narrated to the Chronicle that in the afternoon of October 19, 2018, Sumaylo barged into his office and brusquely ordered the turnover of several pieces of office equipment including his table to them.
Sumaylo’s group failed in their attempt to take away what they demanded after Fuertes challenged them to show a copy of a Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) order implementing the Court of Appeals (CA) resolution reinstating Montero as mayor of Panglao.
However, in their joint counter-affidavit, the 25 respondents asserted that “the element for the commission of the crime of robbery is not complete” since there was “no intent to gain” because the alleged documents, office equipment and supplies belong to the office of the mayor.
The respondents cited article 293 of the Revised Penal Code that defines robbery as the taking of personal property belonging to another, with intent to gain by means of violence against or intimidation of any person, or using force upon anything.
Repeated requests by Montero, Sumaylo, Arbutante and Marcos Guirit for the return of the files and office equipment fell on deaf ears as Fuertes insisted that the investigation report of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) – Bohol should be completed.
Fuertes was referring to an investigation conducted by the NBI on the unauthorized entry and the sealing of concrete hollow blocks of a door leading to his office.
The NBI-Bohol in a letter dated November 23, 2018, informed Montero that it has completed the scene investigation of the office of Fuertes any activity will not affect the investigation and preservation of the scene of the alleged crime.
However, Atty. Rennan-Augustus T. Oliva, Agent-in-Charge stressed that any movement in the office of the vice mayor is a purely administrative matter which is outside the bounds of this office.
Montero also requested her former secretary, Josie B. Tramil for the transfer of the files and office equipment back to her office which she allegedly ignored resulting in her preventive suspension.
Fuertes served as acting mayor when Montero was suspended by the Ombudsman for three months and took his oath as mayor when the Ombudsman upgraded her suspension to dismissal as mayor from January 9, 2018 to September 10, 2018.
The CA Special Twelfth Division reinstated the original Ombudsman decision of suspension on October 16, 2018, for its failure to file an appeal or motion for reconsideration (MR) within the reglementary period.
Montero is now on her third term as mayor but is serving a three-month preventive suspension for a criminal case before the Sandiganbayan over her appointment of four defeated candidates to positions in the LGU in violation of the Constitution and the Local Government Code.
Briccio Velasco who won over Fuertes in the 2019 vice mayoral election is now the Acting Mayor while Montero who is out on bail is serving her preventive suspension. (Chito M. Visarra)