Ombudsman orders preventive suspension of DENR, PCSO employees

Published August 20, 2019, 2:01 PM

by Martin Sadongdong & Antonio Colina

By Czarina Ong Ki 

The Office of the Ombudsman has ordered the six-month preventive suspension of three employees of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), as well as an employee of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO).

Office of the Ombudsman (MANILA BULLETIN)
Office of the Ombudsman (MANILA BULLETIN)

Roxas City Community Environment and Natural Resources Officer (CENRO) Bernabe Garnace, as well as Tubungan Municipal Environment and Natural Resources Officer (MENRO) Francisco Gallego Jr. and Miag-ao CENRO Salvador Manglinong Jr., both from Iloilo, are facing a complaint for grave misconduct, gross neglect of duty, and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service, and were ordered suspended for six months without pay so as to avoid prejudicing a fair and independent disposition of the case.

Meanwhile, PCSO Officer-in-Charge Branch Manager for Pangasinan Editha Romero has been singled out among other respondents in her case to face a preventive suspension.

Romero, together with Assistant General Manager Remeliza Gabuyo, Legal Department employee Anna Liza Inciong, and Manager Leila Galang are facing a complaint for grave misconduct and gross neglect of duty.

The DENR case stemmed from the filing of Reclaimed Land Leases Application (RLLA) of Auxilliary Missionaries of the Assumption Inc. (AMA), a non-stock and non-profit corporation on June 5, 1968.

This was for three lots covering 22,445 square meters at Barrio Obrero, Lapuz Norte, La Paz, Iloilo City. AMA planned to use it for socio-economic purposes.

By December 16, 1993, AMA expressed its intent to renew the lease contract for another 25 years. In September 1996, AMA reiterated its application for the renewal of the land lease, which had already expired on February 5, 1994. AMA even stated its intention to pay five installments of P102,276 per annum, including interests, from 1992 to 1996.

However, on September 23, 2003, AMA was informed that its request has not been acted upon because of lacking requirements and non-payment of arrearages.

Garnace then went back and forth with AMA officials regarding the occupation fees and a new survey of the lot area.

In the end, Garnace issued an order dated August 3, 2011, denying the application of AMA.

The complainant said that Garnace conceived the idea of subdividing the lot being leased by AMA without any legal justification. Gallego approved the Investigation Report of the subdivision survey. Since the two of them did not consult with other DENR officials regarding their plan, their move is considered unauthorized.

As for Manglinong, he was accused of “unreasonable delay” in the disposition of the Miscellaneous Lease Application (MLA) which was filed by AMA on November 18, 2013.

“There is enough basis to conclude that their continued stay in office may prejudice the just, fair and independent disposition of the present case. This Office is, therefore, fully convinced that placing respondents under preventive suspension is proper,” the eight-page order read.

On the other hand, the PCSO case involved the reportedly illegal operation of Speedgame, which is a domestic corporation engaged in the business of general amusement in Pangasinan.

On December 14, 2017, Speedgame’s former President Edward Aguilar requested the PCSO to approve the amendments made in the composition of its Board of Directors and Officers. However, Aguilar was replaced on August 27, 2018.

Despite an order issued by PCSO General Manager Alexander Balutan to immediately stop operating Speedgame in connection with small-town lotteries (STL), Aguilar still continued to do so.

Balutan then directed Romero to implement his directive, but there was inaction regarding this.

The complainant, current Speedgame President David Diciano, even met up with Aguilar, Gabuyo, and Inciong and agreed that the unauthorized operation of STL in Pangasinan be suspended. However, there was no follow-through.

“After an initial evaluation of the administrative complaint and its supporting documents, this Office finds sufficient basis to warrant the preventive suspension of respondent Romero only, pending investigation of this case,” the order read.

Ombudsman Samuel Martires signed both orders on August 15, 2019.