By JOSE B. PEREZ
QUEZON CITY --- Former Mayor Jesus Rico Sarmiento of Garchitorena, Camarines Sur has pleaded guilty before the Sandiganbayan for violation of Section 7(d) of Republic Act No. 6713 (Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees).
Investigation disclosed that from January to October 2014, Sarmiento repeatedly used two private vehicles owned by a
contractor with several ongoing projects in the municipality.
Upon arraignment on October 27, 2017, accused as assisted by counsel, voluntarily entered a plea of guilty before the court’s seventh division. Accused was fully apprised of the consequences of his plea in open court. In clear terms, Sarmiento stated that he understood the nature of his plea; that if he pleaded guilty to the charge, he is deemed to have admitted all the accusations in the Information.
The anti-graft court imposed the penalty of a fine of P2,000.00, having appreciated in Sarmiento’s favor, the mitigating circumstance of plea of guilty.
Under the Code, government officials and employees shall not solicit or accept, directly or indirectly, any gift, gratuity, favor, entertainment, loan or anything of monetary value from any person in the course of their official duties or in connection with any operation being regulated by, or any transaction which may be affected by the functions of their office.
Pamplona Vice Mayor
dismissed from service
In another Camarines Sur town, Vice Mayor Gemino Imperial of Pamplona, Camarines Sur was ordered dismissed from the service by the Office of the Ombudsman.
In her order dated November 23, 2017, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales also imposed against Imperial the accessory penalties of forfeiture of retirement benefits, perpetual disqualification from holding public office, cancellation of civil service eligibility and prevention from taking civil service examination.
Complainants Augustus Cesar M. Cruz III (now the town’s incumbent mayor after the 2016 election) and Rene Francisco stated that on January 14, 2014, respondent Imperial, then the municipal mayor, representing the Municipality of Pamplona leased to Rodolfo Pua, a back hoe and motor grader at a rate of P500 each day.
The complainants claimed that the said contract between LGU Pamplona and Pua violated the provisions of Ordinance No. 001-2008, which fixed the rental for both pieces of equipment at P1,200.00 per hour.
Pua, records show, paid LGU Pamplona the amount of only P40,000.00 on March 11, 2015, after using both pieces of equipment for 80 days.
The complainants told the Ombudsman that LGU Pamplona should have been paid the total amount of P768,000, which is based on the computation that the equipment was used for 80 days, for 8 hours working period per day.
Imperial disputed the accusation saying that the complainants failed to show that the contract was manifestly and grossly disadvantageous to the government.
He also said that he did not benefit or gain from the transaction, or acted in bad faith with gross inexcusable negligence.
The Ombudsman, however, found substantial evidence to hold respondent administratively liable for Grave Misconduct and Conduct Prejudicial to the best interest of the Service.
“As public officer, he is expected to perform and discharge his duties with the highest degree of excellence, professionalism, intelligence and skill and must refrain from doing any acts contrary to law, good morals, good customs, public police, public order, public safety and public interest,” the order said.
In another related development earlier, Mayor Melquiades Gaite of Baao, Camarines Sur in May 2017 was found guilty of grave misconduct and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service that involved irregularities in a 25-year lease deal for the town’s public market.
Investigation showed that in May 2014, Gaite entered into a 25-year lease contract with the Lamvert Consolidated Complex Development Corporation over a portion of the Baao public market building covering 1,704 square meters.
The Ombudsman said Gaite failed to show the lease had the prior authorization of the Sangguniang Bayan as required by the Local Government Code.
Ombudsman Morales also found the mayor violating Municipal Ordinance No. 3, which has provided that lease contracts should not exceed five years.
Noting that Gaite was “a veteran local chief executive with almost two decades of experience,” the Ombudsman held that the violation “amounts to a transgression of some established and definite rule of action.”
Gaite was also found to have failed to enforce the provision on “goodwill money” for the lease deal.
Under the provision, the town was supposed to receive P1.719M from the lessee, with 70 percent going to a trust fund for the development of facilities and the remaining 30 percent serving as deposit. With reports from the Office of the Ombudsman