The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) on Wednesday served a dismissal order against Malay, Aklan Mayor Cicero S. Cawaling and the town’s licensing officer for grave misconduct and other offenses that led to Boracay’s environmental crisis.
DILG Secretary Eduardo M. Año said that the dismissal order was implemented in connection with an Ombudsman decision which found Cawaling and Licensing Officer Jen F. Salsona also guilty of gross neglect of duty, conduct unbecoming of a public official, and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of service.
DILG Regional Director Ariel Iglesia of DILG Western Visayas served the Ombudsman dismissal order against Cawaling by posting it at the Mayor’s office. The order was also received by the Business Permits and Licensing Office.
According to Año, the Ombudsman in its decision found substantial evidence against the two considering that during their incumbency as local government officials some establishments operated without the requisite fire safety inspection certificate and some did not even possess the necessary permits.
Some of the businesses also encroached upon the 25+5 meter easement and violated Malay Municipal Ordinance No. 2000-131.
“By not implementing this Ordinance, Cawaling violated Section 444 (b) (2) of Republic Act 7160, which commands him to enforce all laws and ordinances relative to the governance of the Municipality of Malay,” the decision stated.
The DILG Chief said the dismissal order on Cawaling and Salsona comes with forfeiture of retirement benefits (except accrued leave credits) and perpetual disqualification for re-employment in the government service.
The Ombudsman decision was approved on April 22, 2019 by Ombudsman Martires and was received by the DILG on the same day.
The case against Cawaling and Salsona stemmed from the administrative complaint filed by the DILG against 18 local government officials based on the findings of the Boracay Investigating Team (BIT).
The Office of the Ombudsman initially ordered a six-month preventive suspension, without pay, for alleged violation of the Local Government Code or Republic Act 7160 and the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices or Republic Act No. 3019.
Ironically, Cawaling received the preventive suspension order just a day before Boracay Island reopened to the public on October 26 following its six-month rehabilitation and the dismissal order two days ahead of the end of preventive suspension.
DILG Undersecretary and Spokesperson Jonathan Malaya said that he hopes the Ombudsman decision will serve as a warning to all Local Chief Executives that violation of environmental laws has serious repercussions.
“We hope that other LGUs will now be more proactive in protecting the environment and will not wait for the DILG to file cases against them. We urge other LGUs especially in the Manila Bay Watershed area to take their responsibilities seriously and work closely with the DILG in the rehabilitation and clean-up efforts,” he said.
Malaya also said that the the case vs. Aklan Provincial Governor Florencio T. Miraflores, Aklan Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Officer Valentin Talabero, Malay Vice-Mayor Abram Sualog, and Malay Municipal Environment and Natural Resources Officer Edgardo Sancho was dismissed by the Ombudsman for lack of substantial evidence.
He also said that the case against eight other Malay Sangguniang Bayan members -- Natalie F. Cawaling-Pederes, Jupiter Aelfred G. Gallenero, Frolibar S. Bautista, Lloyd B. Maming, Dalidig M. Sumndad, Maylynn T. Aguirre-Graf, Danilo G. Delos Santos, and Dante C. Pagsuguiron – and three punong barangays -- Hector A. Casidsid of Barangay Yapak, Malay, Chona V. Gabay of Barangay Manoc-manoc, Malay and Lilibeth Sacapao of Barangay Balabag, Malay-- was also dismissed for lack of substantial evidence.