Panay env't officials suspended over land dispute with religious missionaries

Adrian Ayalin, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 21 2019 06:18 PM

MANILA - Environment officials of Roxas City and Iloilo have been preventively suspended without pay by the Office of the Ombudsman over a land dispute involving religious missionaries and their school.

Those suspended are:
-- Roxas City community environment and natural resources officer Bernarbe Garnace; 
-- Tubungan, Iloilo municipal environment and natural resources officer Francisco Gallego, Jr.; 
-- Miag-ao, Iloilo community environment and natural resources officer Salvador Manglinong, Jr. 

They were suspended for a maximum period of 6 months or until their cases for grave misconduct, gross neglect of duty and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service are terminated.

In an order signed by Ombudsman Samuel Martires on August 15, 2019, the guilt of the respondents was found to be strong, based on an initial evaluation of the allegations.

“There is also enough basis to conclude that their continued stay in office may prejudice the just, fair and independent disposition of the present case,” the Ombudsman said.

The cases stemmed from the reclaimed land lease application of the Auxiliary Missionaries of the Assumption, Inc. (AMA) for 3 lots covering an area of 22,445 square meters in La Paz, Iloilo City. 

After the 25-year lease of the lot expired in 1993 and improvements done in the school buildings constructed during the lease period, the renewal application of AMA was not acted upon because of lack of requirements as well as unpaid arrearages.

Unpaid arrearages from 1999 to 2004 amounted to P862,055, and from 2004 to 2011, P1.731 million, with AMA paying on an installment basis.

The religious group also complained that the total land area was subdivided and only 17,646 square meters would be retained for them as the other portions would be given to offices of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, without any justifiable reason given.

The Ombudsman noted that under Republic Act No. 6770 or the Ombudsman Act, a preventive suspension order may be issued against those with pending cases wherein the evidence of guilt is strong and the charges involve dishonesty, oppression or grave misconduct, among others.