Ombudsman suspends San Simon mayor, 7 others anew

A Pampanga mayor now holds the distinction with most suspensions.

For the third time in a row, San Simon Mayor Abundio S. Punsalan Jr. was meted anew with a six-month suspension, this time by the Office of the Ombudsman for “simple neglect of duty and simple misconduct.”

Also suspended were Vice Mayor Romanoel L. Santos, and SP members Mark Pineda Macapagal, Irene Bagtas David, Irene B. Dagdag, Randell P. Bondoc, Archiebald Simbulan Basilio, and Alekseyevich Y. Vergara.

The case stemmed from the reclassification of a parcel of land when Ordinance No. 20-005, reclassified 14,822 square meters of land from agricultural to industrial and commercial use. The reclassification of the land was passed by the San Simon Sangguniang Bayan (SB) officials and approved by Mayor Punsalan Jr. on January 14, 2020 without deliberations.

It said that during the said date, the “SB session do not show that documentary requirements, such as permits and clearances from various government agencies, were submitted by Fernando M. Anicete and Lilibeth G. Anicete to support the reclassification.”

The decision further stated that the “legislative measure was certified urgent under the office of the Mayor” to which Punsalan Jr. has denied noting there was no evidence to prove it. The property was later transferred in the name of Emilio Mangaron Jr and Erlinda Mangaron. The Mangarons later loaned the property to the Land Bank of the Philippines for P60 million.

The land which is covered by Transfer of Certificate Title (TCT) No. 611742 is situated in Barangay San Miguel, San Simon.

In a 15-page decision signed by Ombudsman Samuel Martires on June 23, 2023, it said “this office finds respondents guilty of Simple Neglect of Duty and Simple Misconduct.”

“There is no question that respondent Santos, as the Chairman of the SB Committee on Housing and Land Use Utilization, was actually aware that the request for land reclassification lacked the necessary documents, as evidenced by the correspondence between him and Emilio S. Mangaron Jr.,” the decision stated.

It furthered: “Respondent Punsalan cannot evade liability on the pretext he relied on the presumption that the SB members passed the ordinance in accordance with the applicable laws, rules, and regulations, since as the local chief executive, the approval and disapproval thereof is subject to his discretion.”

The Ombudsman ruled the respondents’ “negligence and misconduct” did not result in a “flagrant and palpable breach of duty or involved corruption and willful intent to violate law and disregard established rules and should only be held liable for Simple Neglect of Duty and Simple Misconduct” and not “Gross Neglect of Duty or Grave Misconduct as charged.”

The Ombudsman has directed the DILG “to implement the decision immediately upon receipt thereof.”
On November 6, 2020, Punsalan Jr., and Councilors Romanoel Santos, Mark Macapagal, Irene Dagdag, Randell Bondoc, and Archiebald Basilio were meted with two-month preventive suspension after the Provincial Board En Banc Committee had approved the suspension order. Then Vice Mayor Leonora Wong assumed the mayoral position.

On July 2021, the Provincial Board, Punsalan Jr. was meted with a six-month suspension anew while the same councilors were meted 3-month suspension based on the recommendation of the Provincial Board members thru Resolution 6786 based on the complaint of individuals led by a certain Reymundo Almario.

The San Simon officials were meted the suspension anew in connection with alleged irregularities in the purchase of land near the municipal hall.

iOrbitNews will present the side of the San Simon officials if they wish to air their side.

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