Panglao, ex-mayor of Bohol found guilty of corruption but not of illegal appointment. To avoid banning ballot losers, she hired four of them as commissioned workers. Why JO’s massive hiring in Cebu City is not like Panglao’s.

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THE EX- MAYOR OF MONTERA HAS MADE IT ON ONE. Leonila Paredes-Montero – former mayor of Panglao, Bohol and now councilor – was sentenced to a maximum of 24 years in prison and ordered to repay 1.3 million pesos paid by the city after the Sandiganbayan found her guilty of bribery for hiring four people who lost in the 2013 election, a violation of the one-year ban.

She could have been sentenced to a longer prison term, but the anti-corruption tribunal, in its decision of October 26, 2022, said that she did not commit the second charge of illegal appointment of losers.

THE WEIRD PART. Here’s what would seem to be the weirdest part: She used the scheme of hiring her political allies as labor order (JO) workers, banned by the Civil Service Commission, to get around the ban. imposed by the Constitution and the law. Because they were OJs, who are not considered employees, the hiring could not be considered an appointment to a position; therefore, the Sandiganbayan ruled that she did not commit the crime of unlawful appointment.

Montero was found guilty of four counts of bribery for “granting improper advantages” to the four election losers under the Anti-Corruption and Corrupt Practices Act (Republic Act 3019), but not four counts illegal appointment under the revised Penal Code. The second charge fell – all elements of the crime were proven except one – and only because of the work order mechanism she used in the first crime.

ELECTION LOSERS. Montero hired them in July 2013, two months after elections in which she won her third term but her four allies lost. Their names:

[] Noel Hormachuelos as municipal administrator or consultant for administrative services;

[] Danilo Reyes as a public information consultant;

[] Apolinar Fudalan as Public Employment Service Coordinator/IT Consultant; and

[] Fernando Penales as an infrastructure engineering consultant.

Their general designation: “executive assistants”. In 2013, Homarchuelos, who is now a councilor, ran for vice-mayor of Montero and the other three as councilors under the same party.

THE CONSTITUTION AND LAW PROHIBIT the appointment of “any candidate who has lost in an election” within one year of said election to “any position in the government or any government owned or controlled company or any of their subsidiaries”.

The Constitution does not provide for any exceptions, but the Local Government Code (RA No. 7160) exempts losers from barangay elections.

THE FOUR WERE NOT EMPLOYEES of the city, Montero argued, they were on the command staff and she chose them as “executive assistants” because they participated in the discussion of her programs for Panglao. She was authorized by the city council to hire them, she said.

An interesting note from the court concerns “bias, bad faith and negligence”. In themselves, they are not punishable. A public official may be guilty of these and yet not be punished. It is only where the bias is “manifest”, the bad faith “obvious” and the “gross” and “inexcusable” negligence that the public official is found guilty of a crime.

And the court found everyone who hired the four from Montero.

‘STEALTH DESIGN, EVIL INTENT.’ The Sandiganbayan said Montero had “stealthy design and evil intent to circumvent” the constitutional and statutory ban.

She knew, the court said, that the four ballot losers would perform the duties and functions of regular public officers. They were hired as JOs and the JOs were according to his concept for piece work and intermittent and temporary jobs (not longer than six months). But the four Monteros hired did the job of city administrator, information officer, employment office coordinator, and city engineer. And they were ‘only JOs in name’ but did not do the work of temporary and emergency workers, were paid much more (25,000P each per month) than other JOs and were not paid at the day, and gave achievement reports only in the first year.

WHY THE ONE YEAR BAN. As if addressing all those responsible for elective appointments in government, not just Montero, Sandiganbayan reiterated the purpose of the ban, namely: “the eradication” (complete removal) of the “loot system or the practice of hiring based on patronage and patronage. ”

Aim high, but at least there’s technically a respite from political patronage for a year and for the losers in the polls.

THEY WERE “QUALIFIED”, BUT DISQUALIFIED. All four had the experience and expertise, Montero argued, citing their qualifications.

They could be qualified for the respective jobs, but they were disqualified by the constitutional and statutory prohibition. Not being disqualified is part of qualifying, according to the ruling.

Moreover, “what cannot be done legally directly cannot be done indirectly”. It is fundamental and, the Sandiganbayan said, “to a reasonable mind it needs no explanation”.

CSC’S EXEMPTION IS ABUSED. The Civil Service Commission (CSC) in a January 3, 2002 resolution (#02-0012) stated that non-winning applicants could be hired as order workers, obviously on the basis that they are not employees who work briefly.

However, less than four months later, on June 5 of the same year, the CSC passed another resolution (#020790) listing four groups of people who cannot be hired even as JOs. And the four ballot losers that Montero hired would fall under (c) of the prohibitions section, namely, those hired to perform duties relating to vacant regular plantilla positions.

SAME PROBLEM IN CEBU CITY. In Cebu City, the CSC is said to have frequently challenged the city government, under several administrations, regarding the practice of hiring JOs instead of filling vacancies in the “plantilla”.

The 2021 Transactions Audit Commission said there were 2,320 regular positions available and the CSC had issued repeated reminders and rejections of serial violations of the law and rules. It is not stated, however, whether the city’s OJs, whose numbers have exploded over the years, have served as regular employees.

On August 17, City Council approved a resolution sponsored by Councilor Rey Gealon asking the mayor to fill regular or “plantilla” positions, instead of hiring casuals. Gealon had told his colleagues that the city’s legal office, which he headed before becoming a councilman, was overwhelmed with CSC cases over the issue of hiring JO workers. That meant City Hall faced citations for violating CSC’s ruling. Except that, unlike the mayor of the time, Montero, the mayor of the city had not tapped on the losers of the polls.

DIFFERENT EXPERIENCE. No case from Cebu similar to that of Panglao has yet received national attention. That may be because OJ’s hiring at City Hall was not used to dodge the ban on employing losers.

And no case has yet reached the anti-corruption tribunal because CSC has been generally hopeless in enforcing its rules on the employment of emergency and temporary employees.

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