Thursday, 1 November 2012

Latest: RTC orders funds of sleepy Bicol town garnished


LIGAO CITY, Albay: Regional Trial Court (RTC) judge here has ordered the garnishment of less than P1 million funds of the sleepy Oas town in Albay for the local government unit’s (LGU) refusing to pay the salary of  a town official who turned whistle-blower.

But the whistleblower said though the court order was in his favor, the RTC has not compelled the town mayor and the Oas LGU to pay his claims equivalent to 18 months’ salary as of the end of last September.

The town has an annual budget of P72 million, according to documents, and can easily pay the whistle-blower’s unpaid salary.

Court records showed that Oas  municipal planning and development officer (MPDO) Jose Carlos Torres filed a complaint in court against Mayor Gregorio Ricarte for withholding his salaries starting May 2011 after he exposed an alleged extraordinary bloated land deal worth P15 million,  the actual and real cost of which was only P5 million. 

Added to his expose’ were several scandals involving water project payment and purchase of allegedly bloated multi-cab units. Investigation of these incidents is pending in the Office of the Ombudsman.

Ricarte denied the charge and pointed to his accuser as among the town’s alleged shady-deal operators during his predecessors’ time.

Nevertheless, Ricarte, using an executive order he issued, ordered his treasurer and accountant to withhold Torres’ salaries on allegations the whistleblower went on Absence Without Leave (AWOL), citing the municipal employees’ log book.

Torres said he never went on AWOL and that he had been attending seminars during the alleged period of his AWOL. 

He said the mayor merely replaced him as an MPDO and was placed on floating status after getting the ire of the mayor for allegedly resisting corruption in the town.

Torres said he had been the town MPDO for three decades and was never required to sign in the log book. 

He said he was a mid-level officer whose duties require him to be in the field.  

He said the log book requirement came only after he became a whistleblower

In his order dated Aug 3, 2012 Judge Alben Rabe of RTC Branch 12 said Ricarte committed violations and ordered him to release the withheld salaries of Torres from May 2011 to Sept 2012 or a total of P884,155.

Torres said Ricarte ignored the judge’s order, prompting Torres to seek a mandamus order which the court granted in its order dated Sept. 26, 2012.

Ricarte went to the Court of Appeals but pending the CA resolution, Judge Rabe ordered on Oct 10, 2012, the garnishment of the town’s funds equivalent to Torres’ unpaid salaries in the town’s depository at the Land Bank Ligao City Branch.

Torres said that despite of the court order, he has yet to receive the garnished money, saying that the town’s LandBank account no longer has the fund to pay his salary. 

He claimed the mayor was manipulating the situation to make him suffer.

He said: “I wish the Office of the Ombudsman would find the time to decide n the five major criminal and administrative cases I filed against the mayor more than a year ago.” 

He claimed the cases are backed by documents he presented. – Business Mirror

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