Mayor, lawyer acquitted over alleged 2019 politicking

Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas

By Joseph B.A. Marzan

Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas survived another legal hurdle this year after he was acquitted of graft accusations lodged by a former city hall employee who was preventively suspended over allegations of using contractual workers for politicking in the 2019 local elections.

In a 13-page resolution dated November 12, 2021 but approved by Ombudsman Samuel Martires on September 13, 2022, the Office of the Ombudsman junked the suit filed by Rosita Camacho against Treñas and City Legal Officer Edgardo Gil.

Camacho accused the two officials of committing graft and violating civil service laws in suspending her sans due process.

The resolution penned by Preliminary Investigation Administrative Adjudication and Prosecution Bureau—B director Jane Aguilar and recommended by OIC Deputy Ombudsman for the Visayas Carla Narvios-Tanco stated that Camacho was granted procedural due process contrary to her claims.

“It bears to emphasize that the essence of procedural due process is embodied in the basic requirement of notice and a real opportunity to be heard. In administrative proceedings, procedural due process simply means the opportunity to explain one’s side or the opportunity to seek a reconsideration of the action or ruling complained of. ‘To be heard’ does not mean only verbal arguments in court; one may be heard also thru pleadings,” the resolution read.

“Where opportunity to be heard, either through oral arguments or pleadings, is accorded, there is no denial of procedural due process. Clearly, complainant was not denied due process of law since her explanation in the form of her Comment ad Cautelam was considered by the Committee in their Investigation Report,” it pointed out.

The decision added that there was also no need for Camacho to be given a copy of the Investigation Report, as it was confidential in nature.

It also cited Section 21 of the 2017 Rules on Administrative Cases in the Civil Service (RACCS) as basis for this contention.

Section 21 states that the investigating officer or body shall submit the Investigation Report with recommendations and complete documents to the disciplining authority, with the said report to be treated with confidentiality.

But even with their answer, the Ombudsman said that they had no jurisdiction to even resolve the issue on Camacho’s preventive suspension, citing Section 32 of the RACCS which provided that appeals should be filed with the Civil Service Commission.

The violations imputed against Treñas and Gil for their alleged denial of due process and illegal issuance of preventive suspension to Camacho included:

  • Sections 3(a) and 3(e) of Republic Act No. 3019 (Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act);
  • Act No. 6713 (Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees);
  • Existing Civil Service laws and rules of serious nature;
  • Conduct Prejudicial to the Best Interest of Service;
  • Grave Misconduct; and
  • Inefficiency and Incompetence.

This case stemmed from complaints filed by contractual workers Evangeline Valle and Eduardo Gabinete against Camacho with the Office of the City Mayor, alleging that they were tasked to help in the election campaign of then-Mayor Jose Espinosa III.

Camacho was named as the ‘mayordoma’ (head maid) and ‘bagwoman’ in critical commentaries made against Espinosa’s mayoral campaign in 2019, which she alluded to Treñas, who was then the city’s lone district representative.

This case is different from another suit Camacho filed against the mayor, with City Administrator Melchor Tan, Assistant City Administrator and Executive Assistant Noel Panaguiton, Assistant Department Head II Josephine Agudo, and Human Resource Management Officer Leo Elevencione, as co-accused.

These charges for grave coercion and corrupt practices, and for grave misconduct, oppression and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service were also revealed to have been dropped by the Office of the Ombudsman back in June 2022.