PH municipal mayor given prison term for “illegally” demoting employee

Facade of the Sandiganbayan complex in Quezon City ©

FOR demoting an allegedly incompetent employee out of manifest partiality, a Zamboanga Del Norte municipal mayor was sentenced to a six to ten year prison term and perpetually disqualified from holding public office by the Philippines anti-graft court.

The sentencing came following a trial where Pilar Mayor Lucio Gonzales was found guilty by the Sandiganbayan of violating Section 3(e) of Republic Act 3019 (the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act), the Office of the Ombudsman, in a statement, said.

Ombudsman prosecutors were able to prove that Gonzales committed graft when he removed Victor Literato as municipal agriculturist in May 2007.  The municipal mayor then replaced Literato with Anecita Penera and Alex Literato, as officers-in-charge of the Municipal Agricultural Office.

Gonzales, in his defense, claimed that Literato was removed and transferred to another post because of his “sub-par performance.”

The anti-graft, however, brushed aside Gonzales’ defense and ruled that “even granting for the sake of argument that Victor Literato’s performance was less than desirable, still, the Court cannot countenance the position taken by the accused…as the Court finds the accused’s designation of Penera and Alex Literato was not only patently illegal, but was also committed with manifest partiality, evident bad faith and gross inexcusable negligence.”

Moreover, the Court “finds the accused to have given unwarranted benefit to Anecita Penera and Alex Literato, by designating them, one after the other as Officer-In-Charge of the Municipal Agriculture Office, despite the presence and capability of the appointed Municipal Agriculturist, Victor Exuperancio T. Literato to perform the functions of the said position as head of the said office to the prejudice of the latter.”

It also held that Victor Literato’s reassignment as fisheries coordinator is a demotion tantamount to removal which has violated his constitutional right to security of tenure that “no employee of the civil service shall be removed or suspended except for cause provided by law.”

Under Section 3(e) of R.A. No. 3019, public officials are prohibited from causing any undue injury to any party, including the Government, or giving any private party any unwarranted benefits, advantage or preference in the discharge of his official administrative or judicial functions through manifest partiality, evident bad faith or gross inexcusable negligence.

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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