Governor supports suspended provincial aide

By Dolly Yasa

BACOLOD CITY – Negros Occidental Governor Eugenio Jose Lacson expressed support for his chief aide following the Ombudsman’s six-month suspension order.

Provincial Administrator Rayfrando Diaz and Executive Assistant II Chery Sheil Valenzuela were suspended by the Office of the Ombudsman for six months without pay for “conflict of interest” while practicing law privately while working for the provincial government.

“I personally believe he has done nothing wrong,” the governor, who was out of town, told reporters in a phone interview Wednesday noon.

Lacson said he has not yet talked to Diaz but mentioned that Diaz plans to file a motion for reconsideration.

“The way I understand it, nothing is final yet,” the governor said.

He reiterated, “I will talk to him. I also personally believe he has done nothing wrong. I am not a lawyer, so I have to ask him about the legal options.”

When reached for comment, Diaz confirmed to the Daily Guardian via text message that he will file an MR and appeal all the way. He said he has not talked with the governor yet and whether he will serve the suspension order will depend on the governor.

The suspension order stems from a complaint against Diaz and Valenzuela for allegedly failing to provide legal assistance or representation to Binalbagan, Negros Occidental, in an expropriation case filed by the municipality with the Regional Trial Court of Himamaylan City.

It was alleged that there is a conflict of interest because Diaz and Valenzuela, then provincial administrator and executive assistant II, acted as counsel for JLL Agriculture and Development, a defendant in the expropriation case.

Diaz denied the allegation, saying that he and his co-respondent did not act against the interest of Binalbagan or commit acts of betrayal of duties and responsibilities as provincial government employees.

He also contended that they were granted authority by the governor to practice their profession.

The Ombudsman’s decision stated that the authority granted to Diaz and Valenzuela allowed them to engage in the private practice of law “provided it was not in conflict with their obligations to the provincial government.”

It further stated that “appearing as counsel for JLL undeniably came in conflict with Diaz and Valenzuela’s obligations.”

The Ombudsman, however, dismissed the administrative charges against Diaz and Valenzuela for serious dishonesty, conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service, grave abuse of authority, grave misconduct, gross neglect of duty, and oppression for lack of merit.

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