Councilors Archie Fuentes(left) and Kendall Luke Perez were formally sworn into office as acting mayor and vice mayor of Catbalogan City on Thursday(January 3) by Judge Sibanah Usman of the Regional Trial Court- Branch 29 .

TACLOBAN CITY-The acting mayor and vice mayor of Catbalogan City formally took over the reign of the city government, more than two months after its mayor, vice mayor and other officials were slapped with a six-month preventive suspension order issued by the Office of the Ombudsman.
Councilors Archie Fuentes and Kendall Luke Perez were sworn into office as acting mayor and acting vice mayor of the city on Thursday (Jan.3) before Judge Sibanah Usman, presiding judge of Regional Trial Court-Branch 29.
To recall, the anti-graft court issued the preventive suspension order without pay to Mayor Stephany Uy-Tan and Vice Mayor Art Sherwin Gabon due to alleged overpriced land purchase and anomalous market lease deal.
Also suspended by the Ombudsman on its November 26 order were seven of the city’s councilors, Coefredo Uy, father of the Stephany Uy-Tan; Jeffrey Uy; Maximo Pascual; Edward Uy; Christine Joy Escobar; Beethoven Bermejo; and Nanette Jasmin.
Included suspended were city accountant Peachy Daguman; city treasurer Elizabeth Lim; city budget officer Ma. Theresa Lim; and city assessor Romero Tuazon.
All were slapped for grave abuse of authority; grave misconduct; gross neglect of duty and violation of code of conduct and ethical standards for public officials relative to the alleged overpriced land purchase and anomalous market lease deal in October, 2015.
The investigation pertained to complaints filed separately by legislative staff officer Bernard Jake Ramos and the Catbalogan Public Market Vendors.
Ramos’ complaint involved the city’s October 2015 purchase of 8.0194-hectare agricultural lands owned by Alvin Cesar Laohoo and Lorenzo Laohoo Jr. for P120.225 million, 773 times the market value of P155,497.84.
The five parcels were “hastily” reclassified as residential, industrial, institutional and commercial land in June 2016. This hiked the total market value 444 times to P69.15 million.
The second complaint filed against the suspended officials involved the proposed lease of the city’s public market to the Philippine Primark Properties Inc.(PPPI) filed by the city’s market vendors association.
The PPPI has planned to develop the 10,000 square meter property.
Tan secured the authorization of the city council to enter a lease agreement with PPPI but the latter said to occupy the property immediately and started collecting fees from vendors prior to the execution of the agreement on December 5.
Suspended Mayor Uy-Tan dismissed the complaints as politically motivated and without basis saying both deals underwent due process and were above board.
Uy-Tan was seeking for her third and last term as mayor in this year’s elections but withdrew her bid and filed instead as a councilor with her younger brother, Dexter, substituting her.
Uy-Tan vowed to contest the order by filing a motion for reconsideration.
The suspension orders were served to Uy-Tan and Gabon on December 28 by the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) which paved the way for the assumption of Fuentes and Perez.
It’s not yet clear if the city council could transact business as they still wait opinion from the DILG.
With the assumption of Councilors Fuentes and Perez as acting mayor and vice mayor, the remaining members of the council are Siegfried Uy and Michael Ian Tuazon, city president of the Association of Barangay Chairmen, and Sangguniang Kabataan city federation president, respectively.
Acting Mayor Perez, in a press statement he issued right after he assumed the post, said that he would continue to implement the ‘good’ projects and programs initiated by the suspended mayor.
He added that in his six-month in office, his administration will observe transparency and accountability in all the transactions it would enter.
The acting mayor also vow to engage the people of the city in all the undertakings that he would do.
“I appeal to you, my bosses, to help and extend your cooperation to the city government,” Perez added. (RONALD O. REYES/JOEY A. GABIETA)