The province of Bataan is now being headed by two governors.
Starting 8 a.m. Tuesday, suspended governor Enrique Garcia and acting governor Serafin Roman will both hold office at the Bataan capitol in Balanga City.
This was after Bataan Bishop Soc Villegas brokered a compromise agreement between the two local officials to end the week-long tension at the provincial capitol caused by the Office of the Ombudsman's 90-day suspension against Garcia and three other local officials.
After hours of negotiations on Monday, Villegas was able to seal a compromise agreement between Garcia and Roman. The two agreed to both hold office at the provincial capitol.
Garcia, meanwhile, said Roman will start signing sensitive documents and fund releases that will go through the Office of the Governor.
"I'm announcing to the people of Bataan that the capitol's doors are now open for business. You can now go here to transact business, to ask for help," the suspended governor said.
At 5 p.m. on Monday, Garcia's supporters holding vigil at the capitol grounds peacefully dispersed. Some supporters even cleaned the capitol grounds before leaving.
"This only shows that the people of Bataan are still united," the suspended governor said.
Garcia agreed to Villegas's proposals after the Court of Appeals failed to act on his petition for a temporary restraining order against the Ombudsman's suspension order.
Instead of ruling on the petition, the appellate court ordered Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez and other concerned officials to submit their answer to the petition in 10 days.
The court said it will act on Garcia's petition after the 10-day deadline.
Garcia, provincial legal officer Aurelio Angeles Jr., treasurer Emerlinda Talento and administrator Rodolfo de Mesa were ordered suspended by the Ombudsman pending their trial on charges of plunder, falsification of public documents and malversation of public funds.
Investigation by the Office of the Ombudsman showed that the Bataan government caused the tax delinquency sale in February 2004 of the properties of Sunrise Paper Products Industries, consisting of a paper plant and two parcels of land in Barangay Doña, Orani, Bataan.
The province acquired all the properties for the amount of tax delinquencies in accordance with Republic Act 7160 or the Local Government Code of 1991, there being no bidder during the public auction.
On March 5, 2005, the Bataan Provincial Government moved for the consolidation of its titles over the properties. But on April 21, 2005, Sunrise assailed the validity of the tax auction of its properties before the Bataan Regional Trial Court.
Two other creditors of Sunrise also filed their interventions in the said civil case.Although Sunrise and the Bataan Provincial Government later settled their claims amicably, Josechito Gonzaga, Ruel Masino and Alfredo Santos – all former workers of Sunrise – filed graft charges against Garcia and the other provincial officials before the Ombudsman. With a report from dzMM