The Ombudsman has dismissed an administrative complaint for gross negligence and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service, filed against Silay Mayor Jose Montelibano and 12 other officials, in connection with their lease of city properties to Smart Communications, for lack of substantial evidence.
But the complainant Jose Lindy Chan Jr., who furnished the DAILY STAR a copy of the decision signed by Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales on May 27, that he received Friday, yesterday questioned the validity of the decision.
He said previous rulings of the Ombudsman on cases involving Silay City officials contained the recommendation and signature of Deputy Ombudsman for the Visayas Pelagio Apostol, but in the decision on the properties leased to Smart for cell site towers, his name was not in the decision.
Chan said he will file a motion for reconsideration to the ruling as no bidding for the lease of the property for the cell site towers was conducted.
The last page of the 11-page decision is signed by Graft Investigation and Prosecution Officer 1 Vivien Leigh Santiago-Lumangtad, and states that it was reviewed by Acting Director Euphemia Bacalso and approved by Morales.
In his May 5, 2011 administrative complaint, Chan questioned the Silay City council members for passing a resolution authorizing Montelibano to sign a contract with Smart Communications for the lease of government properties at the Silay Engineering Compound, Guimbalaon Public Cemetery and Patag Hospital for the construction of cell site towers.
Chan said the resolution was illegal and anomalous as there was no proof of social acceptability submitted by the barangays.
The property in Patag is not absolutely owned by the city government, considering that the area had been declared a forest reserve owned by the national government, while the property in Guimbalaon is a public cemetery, he added.
On April 9, 2008, Smart and the Silay government, through Montelibano, entered into the contract of lease stating that Smart would provide the city Internet wireless access worth P80,000 in lieu of monthly cash rentals, which Chan said was disadvantageous to the city.
The Ombudsman said that, after thorough evaluation of the evidence on record, it finds that it is not substantial to hold respondents administratively liable.
Records reveal that before the City of Silay entered into a contract of lease with Smart Communications, proper steps were taken by the respondents to ensure that the contract would be beneficial and advantageous to the city, the decision said.
In fact, it was noted that the P80,000 worth of Internet access, or an average monthly rental of P23,333 per cell site, is higher than the prevailing maximum rental rates offered by other Internet providers, the decision said.
The decision also noted that the concerned barangay councils where the proposed cell sites were to be constructed had passed resolutions approving their presence, contrary to the allegation that the requirement of social acceptability was not met.
It also said the claim that the city is not the absolute owner of the properties in Patag and Guimbalaon has no merit.
Aside from Montelibano, the other respondents cleared of the complaint were Silay Vice Mayor Mark Golez, Jose Raymundo Locsin, Rosalinda Caja, Michael Maravilla, Mario Torres, Marie June Castro, Ramon Jison and Michael Thomas Velez of the city council, SK representative April Grace de los Reyes, city administrator Ignacio Salmingo, city legal officer Kara Aimee Quevenco and City Engineer’s Office officer-in-charge Sonia Cordero.*CPG