Mayor formally charges, suspends regular employee who sued him

ILOILO City Mayor Jerry Treñas (Ricky Alejo photo)

By: Emme Rose Santiagudo

Tension continues to rise at City Hall as Mayor Jerry Treñas suspended and charged regular employee Joe Mari Esteral for gross insubordination, grave misconduct, and gross neglect of duty.

Treñas formally charged Esteral on the basis of the recommendation of Memorandum/Investigation report issued by the Iloilo City Government Administrative Investigating Committee on September 25, 2019.

“Upon evaluation of the available records or documents, and after due consideration of the foregoing, the undersigned finds that prima facie case exists against Jose Marie Esteral for committing gross insubordination, grave misconduct, gross neglect of duty,” the order read.

On September 18, 2019 Esteral wrote a letter to the mayor manifesting that effective on September 19, 2019, he “can no longer abide” with the re-assignment order, and thus, will be reporting back to his mother unit which is the City Civil Registrar Office.

“As per confirmation with the department and assistant department heads concerned, Mr. Esteral is indeed no longer reporting to his new reassignment at the General Service Office, and is in fact reporting back to the mother unit at the Local Civil Registrar’s Office,” the order added.

The mayor emphasized that Esteral’s refusal to obey orders issued to him, and his unilateral return to his mother unit without valid and justifiable reasons and approval from the concerned offices amounts to gross insubordination which warrants disciplinary action.

Accordingly, Esteral’s defiance to the detail order amounts to his intentional and deliberate refusal to perform the duties and obligations assigned to him, the order said.

“His obstinate refusal to perform the duties assigned to him is prejudicial to public service.  Indeed, the failure and refusal of Esteral to report to the Office or Unit where he was re-assigned constitute flagrant and palpable breach of duty, because it amounts to defiance of a lawful and valid order issued. Such behavior of Mr. Esteral constitutes gross neglect of duty which warrants disciplinary action,” the order concluded.

Following the charges, Esteral was also preventively suspended for 60 days from receipt of the order and was directed to answer the charges in writing and under oath within seven days after receiving the order.

Esteral, who was appointed to the position of Book Binder II at the Local Civil Registrar’s Office (LCRO) but was later re-assigned to the city’s sanitary landfill at Calajunan in Mandurriao district, filed criminal and administrative charges against the mayor along with six other City Hall employees for allegedly harassing and oppressing him through re-assignment.

Esteral claimed that Tan, Treñas, City General Services Office Head Joren Sartorio, City Legal Officer Atty. Edgar Gil, Iloilo City Civil Registry Assistant Department Head Cherrie Ampig, and Executive Assistants Fernando Jose Rico and Rudiver Jungco Sr. connived and confederated in harassing and oppressing him not only through re-assignment but also in forcing him to testify and pin down his boss, LCRO head Romeo Caesar Manikan.

The charges of grave coercion, grave misconduct, oppression, conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service, and unfair discrimination were lodged with the Office of the Ombudsman Visayas in Cebu City on Sept 11, 2019.

Meanwhile, Esteral said in an interview that he was hurt by the mayor’s actions against him.

Si mayor, poderoso nga tawo.  Tam-an ka sakit gin-ubra nila sa akon, nabudlayan ako sa sitwasyon ko kay wala ko sweldowala man trabaho akon asawa, galibog akon ulo kon pano ko ni masolbar,” he said.

Despite this, Esteral said he will continue with his actions emphasizing that he never dipped his fingers into politics.

Wala ako nagpasaka kaso kon wala ko nila ginhaboy sa Calajunan. Kon ano gid man padayunon ko ni, ang mahambal ko sa palangga ta nga mayor, wala gid ko gaintra sa pulitika,” he stressed.

When asked about the suspension of Esteral, the mayor said, “For every action, there is a reaction, for every reaction, there is a legal reaction. Ara na sa legal, I have created a team that will investigate this and other instructions of the law, they will make recommendations, they will speak for themselves.”