Ombudsman again junks ex-city health chief’s suit vs mayor

By Joseph B.A. Marzan

The Office of the Ombudsman junked another charge filed by former Iloilo City Health Office (CHO) chief Bernard Caspe against Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas and City Administrator Melchor Tan over his alleged sacking in 2020.

In separate orders authored by Graft Investigation and Prosecution Officer Darius Sagadal on April 28, 2022 and May 11, 2022, the Ombudsman junked the Motions for Reconsideration filed by Caspe, both for lack of evidence.

The April 28, 2022 order for the criminal complaint filed by Caspe, stated that he could not rest on his verified complaint-affidavit alone without evidence to establish probable cause.

The May 11, 2022 order, which tackled Caspe’s administrative complaint, struck the same tone, saying that the evidence submitted by Caspe – affidavits by former city government employees Rosita Camacho and Romeo Cesar Manikan – were inadequate to prosecute Treñas and Tan.

“[A] finding of probable cause needs to rest on evidence showing that more likely than not a crime has been committed and there is enough reason to believe that it was committed by the accused. No such evidence was shown in this case. The complaint alone, by itself, without any supporting evidence whatsoever, did not excite the belief that a crime was committed and that such crimes were probably committed by respondents,” the April 28, 2022 order read.

The order on the criminal complaint was reviewed by Preliminary Investigation, Administrative Adjudication, and Prosecution Bureau director Euphemia Bacalso and Assistant Ombudsman for Visayas Carla Juris Narvios-Tanco on April 29, 2022, and was recommended for approval by Deputy Ombudsman for Visayas Dante Vargas on May 4, 2022.

The order for the administrative complaint, meanwhile, was reviewed by Bacalso on May 12, 2022 and recommended for approval by Vargas on May 14, 2022.

Both orders were approved almost a year later on May 8, 2023 by Deputy Ombudsman for Luzon Cornelio Somido, as officer-in-charge.

The separate motions filed by Caspe were based on the February 8, 2021 joint resolution approved by Ombudsman Samuel Martires on December 2, 2021.

The joint resolution junked the criminal and administrative complaints filed against Treñas and Tan, alleging that he was forced to resign by the two in favor of current CHO chief, Dr. Annabel Tang.

Tang in her affidavit denied the allegations that she intimated to him (Caspe) the desire of Treñas and Tan for him to resign over his alleged political support to the mayor’s 2019 erstwhile rival, former mayor Jose Espinosa III.

Caspe accused Treñas and Tan of violating Article 286 of the Revised Penal Code (Grave Coercion), Section 3(e) of Republic Act No. 3019 (Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act), and Sec. 4(A)(c) of Rep. Act No. 6713 (Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees).

In the same filing, he also accused the two for administrative charges of Grave Misconduct, Oppression, and Conduct Prejudicial to the Best Interest of the Service.

To recall, Somido on May 10, 2023 approved a March 11, 2022 joint resolution penned by Graft Investigation and Prosecution Officer II Abegail Marie Cinco that junked Caspe’s complaint against Treñas and former CHO job-order worker Khrystyl Lampa.