News

Philippine Ombudsman fires a city treasurer for oppression

Ombudsman_of_the_Philippines_sealTHE Office of the Ombudsman has ordered the dismissal from the service of Officer-in-Charge Treasurer Edgar Villanueva after he was found guilty of Oppression.  His dismissal from the service was prompted by an investigation into the imposition and assessment of real property taxes against the Manila Seedling Bank Foundation, Inc. (MSBFI) in 2011. 
 
Aside from the dismissal order, Villanueva was also perpetually disqualified from holding public office with cancellation of eligibility, and forfeiture of retirement benefits.  In case of separation from the service, the penalty is convertible to a fine equivalent to respondent’s salary for one year.
 
In May 2011, Villanueva issued a Statement of Delinquency against MSBFI for unpaid real property tax liabilities totaling P42.8million.  One month later in June 2011, the Final Notice of Delinquency and Warrant of Levy were issued.   In July 2012, MSBFI was directed to immediately vacate the premises. Its premises and gates were padlocked by Quezon City officials. 
 
In its complaint, MSBFI narrated that the property is owned by the National Housing Authority (NHA) and that it received no Notice of Assessment for the tax liability. 
 
The Office of the Ombudsman stated that “in enforcing collection of taxes against MSBFI without the required notice of assessment, Villanueva denied MSBFI its right to due process, which consists [of] the opportunity to avail of the remedy provided under the [Local Government Code].”
 
“Absent such prior notice of assessment, the Warrant of Levy issued to MSBFI and the succeeding auction sale conducted by the City Treasurer had no legal mooring,” the Ombudsman explained. 
 
According to Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales, “Villanueva gravely abused his authority in the discharge of his official duties when he enforced taxes without prior notice of assessment.”
 
She added that “any injury sustained by MSBFI as an offshoot of the flawed tax enforcement would be undue and unwarranted for lack of legal basis on the part of the City Treasurer to demand payment.”
 
Ombudsman Morales stated that “even assuming that MSBFI is liable for real property taxes, the [Office of the City Treasurer] may not validly levy and sell the property since it is owned by a government entity [NHA] exempt from taxes.”###
 
Nelson Flores, J.D., MSCK
A former reporter of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Manila Standard Today, and a regular columnist of the Metro Manila based daily tabloid newspaper Hataw; Nelson Flores is also the former Senior Associate Editor of the Houston based Fil-Am Press and former anchor of dzXL and dzRJ's weekend talk show Usaping Bayan. Mr. Flores has a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and Law degrees from the University of Santo Tomas and Adamson University and a holder of a study certificate from the Diocesan House of Studies, Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI). He is a Freemason and member of Reagan Lodge 1037 in Houston Heights under the jurisdiction of the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Texas and a member of the Missionary Society of Christ the King (MSCK).

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