Ex-mayor gets jail term for defying Ombudsman order

By: Gerome Dalipe

Former mayor Oscar Montilla, Jr. of Sipalay City, Negros Occidental will spend up to eight years in jail for delaying the suspension order of his five subordinates in 2005.

The Sandiganbayan found Montilla guilty of violating Montilla, Jr. of violating Section 3 (e) of Republic Act 3019, or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

“We find that Montilla exhibited gross negligence in delaying the implementation of the ombudsman’s suspension order,” read the anti-graft court’s decision.

The Office of the Ombudsman-Visayas charged Montilla with violation of the anti-graft law for his refusal to suspend the five City Hall employees.

The anti-graft office suspended Evangeline Seneres, Eva Sabusap, Fernando Balbin, Noel Villanueva and Renato Manill for negligence.

The Ombudsman-Visayas imposed the three-month suspension on the five City Hall officials on Nov. 14, 2005.

But Montilla later filed a motion to defer the implementation of the suspension order. He cited the opinion of the City Legal Officer, which argued that the ombudsman’s ruling is not yet final and executory.

This prompted the anti-graft’s office to file administrative charges against Montilla, saying he gave “unwarranted benefit” to the five City Hall employees when he delayed for years the implementation of the suspension order without a legal basis.

Replying to the charges, Montilla said he did not immediately enforce the suspension of the five employees upon the advice of their city legal officer.

The mayor said he directed the city legal officer to enforce the suspension, but the legal officer advised him to delay the implementation since the respondents have not yet received the order.

In the order, the Sandiganbayan said Montilla exhibited gross negligence in delaying the implementation of the ombudsman’s suspension order.

“Clearly, the Sipalay employees benefited from Montilla’s unjustified and improper postponement of the Ombudsman’s suspension orders,” the Sandiganbayan’s decision read.

Apart from the jail term, the Sandiganbayan also barred him from working again in government.