GUIUAN, Eastern Samar – The suspended mayor of this town continue to question the decision of the Office of the Ombudsman removing him from office for six months.
On Wednesday (March 13), Vice Mayor Susana Lourdes Gaylon formally assumed the mayoralty post after the regional office of the Department of Interior and Local Government formally served the notice to suspended mayor, Christopher Sheen Gonzales.
The anti-graft issued a preventive suspension order against Gonzales on February 12 for corruption related to alleged misuse of funds intended for the rehabilitation of public markets and barangay halls destroyed when the town was hit by super typhoon ‘Yolanda.’
This complaint was contested by Gonzales, who is serving on his second term as mayor of the town, calling it ‘political harassment.’
He also disputed the complaint saying it’s baseless as he insisted that the rehabilitation of these facilities were done above board.
Gonzales’ lawyer, Christopher Coles, said that there was a grave abuse of discretion committed by the anti-graft court when it handed down the suspension order as it was released during the election period.
“There was a grave abuse of discretion on the part of the Ombudsman to issue a suspension order against Mayor Gonzales because they issue the suspension order during the prohibited period,” Coles said.
“(The) suspension order is not a penalty but since they are enforcing it during election period, there is still a grave abuse of discretion because of its timing,” the lawyer added.
Gonzales, in his letter to Interior Sec.Eduardo Año on March 8, he cited that under Section 261 (x) of the Omnibus Election Code, suspension of an elective provincial, city, municipal or barangay official during the election period requires prior approval from the Commission on Elections unless the suspension will be for the purpose of applying the anti-graft and corrupt practices act.
Coles stressed that the complaint filed against his client is administrative in nature and not criminal.
Prior to the serving of the order, thousands of Gonzales’ supporters went into a vigil to show their support to him.
In his message to his supporters, Gonzales cried political harassment with the complaint instigated by his rivals.
Gonzales is running for the lone congressional district of Eastern Samar against Borongan City Mayor Ma. Fe Abunda and Vice Mayor Conrado Nicart III of San Policarpio in this year’s May 13 elections.(ROEL T. AMAZONA)