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Graft raps ‘politically motivated’, Olongapo mayor says

Posted 4 years ago

OLONGAPO CITY—Mayor Rolen Paulino has questioned the Ombudsman’s order suspending him and 15 other former and currently serving city officials for six months over what it found to be simple misconduct in a land lease deal between the city and SM Prime Holdings Inc.

Ombudsman indicts Olongapo mayor, other officials over SM Prime deal
“Ang simple misconduct, normally reprimand, normally dalawang linggo. Nagulat tayo na ang binigay sa atin ay six months,” Mayor Paulino told ABS-CBN News on Friday.

“Di ko pa rin matanggap na ang sinabi sa akin simple misconduct. Kasi as far as we are concerned, we did not do anything wrong.”

The order came in two February decisions signed by Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales on June 25, one of which also found Paulino and the same officials liable to be indicted for graft charges.

The Ombudsman, however, dismissed the rest of the graft, administrative, and environmental law charges in the cases filed by local broadcaster Rodalyn Guinto-Hanif.

If the suspension order is carried out, 7 of the 12 members of the city council, including vice mayor Aquilino “Jong” Cortez Jr., would go. Two remaining councilors would act as mayor and vice mayor.

Interior and Local Government spokesperson Asec. Jonathan Malaya said the Ombudsman’s decision, which it received this week, will “go through the regular process” and will reach the desk of acting secretary Eduardo Año for his signature.

QUESTIONABLE DEAL?

Hanif, a local businesswoman, and journalist who filed the complaint in 2015, said the 25-year land lease deal was not only questionable but also unnecessary since there was already another mall in the city.

“Wala nang open area ang Olongapo. Paano na kung nagkaroon ng mga sakuna gaya ng lindol, saan sila tatakbo?” she said.

Under the deal proposed by SM in 2014, buildings on the 3.8-hectare area such as the Olongapo City Convention Center, the local museum, and library, would be demolished to give way to a mall, condotel, and newer versions of the demolished buildings.

The Ombudsman ruled that the city council favored the developer by quickly awarding the lease contract without finishing the 60-day waiting period for other prospective bidders.

Mayor Paulino said the deal benefited the city, since it would not spend anything but would also earn from the lease and gain new buildings in the complex like the city disaster risk reduction and management office and a civic center.

He said the city also had the developer first construct a 6-story building for the city-managed Gordon College.

All this, Paulino said, was transparent to the public.

Paulino said the filing of the complaint and the timing of the decision was politically motivated, since the suspension could last until the filing of candidacies for the 2019 elections.

“Nalulungkot lang ako na maha-hamper operation ng city because of politics,” he said.

Paulino also said Hanif was working with his political rivals, a charge she denied.

“Never ako nagpahawak sa politiko may sarili akong isip, may sarili akong kakayanan para makapag-file ng mga kaso,” Hanif said.

While city hall has prepared to answer the Ombudsman’s order, Paulino said they would follow the DILG if it implements the order.

“Kung i-enforce po, susunod kami sa batas. Di ko po ugali na kapag may pinataw sa akin di ako yung magra-rally-rally,” he said.

Paulino’s camp filed a motion in court on Thursday to halt the implementation of the suspension order.

source: news.abs-cbn.com

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