Catbalogan mayor, local officials suspended as Ombudsman investigates land purchase case

Adrian Ayalin, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 27 2018 06:05 PM | Updated as of Nov 27 2018 07:10 PM

MANILA - The Office of the Ombudsman has suspended Catbalogan City Mayor Stephany Tan and other municipal officials for six months as investigations against them on the irregular purchase of private land and leasing of the city public market are on-going.

In the two orders approved by Ombudsman Samuel Martires on November 26 and released to the media Tuesday, Tan was preventively suspended along with city council officials and other municipal employees for 6 months as they faced charges of abuse of authority, grave misconduct, and gross neglect for the purchase of land from private individuals.

The land purchase case stemmed from the complaint of city council legislative staff officer Bernard Jake Ramos who alleged that the respondents purchased agricultural land owned by Alvin Cesar Laohoo and Lorenzo Laohoo Jr. at an “exorbitant price” of P120.225 million when it only had a market value of P155,497.84 in 2016.

Also ordered suspended were Vice Mayor Sherwin Gabon, Councilors Coefredo Uy, Jeffry Uy, Maximo Pescos, Edward Uy, Christine Joy Escobar, Beethoven Bermejo, and Nanette Jasmin, City Assessor Romero Tuazon, Assistant City Assessor Arthur Macabare, and Office of the City Assessor employee Rizal Ignacio.

“The documents presented, which are indicative of strong evidence of guilt against respondents, at this stage, compel this office to grant the preventive suspension prayed for,” the Office of the Ombudsman said in the order.

In a separate order, Tan, Coefredo, Macabare, Aquino, Pescos, Bermejo, Uy and Jasmin were also preventively suspended for 6 months for grave misconduct and gross neglect of duty.

The two orders will be implemented simultaneously and not successively, according to an Ombudsman source.
The second order stemmed from a case filed by vendors of the Catbalogan City Public Market against city officials for allowing Philippine Primark Properties Inc (PPPI) to lease the public market. 

They said the firm, represented by one Wilbert Lee, started collecting fees and charges from vendors after submitting a proposal to lease the market in 2016.

“The various documents submitted by complainant tend to prove that respondents gave PPPI unwarranted benefits when they accepted PPPI’s unsolicited proposal to lease the Catbalogan City Public Market," the Ombudsman said.