Virac barangay captain guilty of abuse of authority, misconduct

A barangay captain in the capital town of Virac has been found guilty of administrative charges, including abuse of authority, in connection with a complaint filed before the Lupon Tagapamayapa in 2021.

In a decision rendered Dec. 14, 2021 but transmitted to the office of Mayor Sinforoso Sarmiento Jr. only last Jan. 14, 2022, the Sangguniang Bayan found Cavinitan Punong Barangay Matthea Tablizo-Bautista guilty of Simple Misconduct, Abuse of Authority and Conduct Prejudicial to the Best Interest of the Service.

Acting as a quasi-judicial tribunal, the municipal council penalized PB Bautista with three (3) months suspension without honoraria.

All nine SB members were unanimous in their verdict, which was attested by Vice Mayor Arlynn Arcilla.

The controversial Bautista, who gained fame and notoriety by pushing hard against violators during the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) in 2020, remains at the helm of the barangay for now.

Under Section 261 (x) of the Omnibus Election Code, any elective local official cannot be suspended during the election period, which began on Jan. 9, 2022, without the prior approval of the Commission on Elections, unless the suspension is for the purpose of applying the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

She would serve the suspension beginning June 9, 2022, unless she files an appeal within 30 days and wins.

The case stemmed from a robbery complaint filed by one Kristine Curle Tanaka against Cavinitan boarding house owner Belen Terrazola, docketed as Barangay Case No. 024-2021.

Both were subsequently summoned by PB Bautista for mediation/conference on June 11, 2021 at the session hall.

Tanaka reportedly claimed that she lost cash and other valuables at her occupied room at the boarding house, for which Terrazola should be held accountable.

Following the conference, in which Terrazola was allegedly not given any chance to explain her side and, was instead described by Bautista as a robber, the boarding house owner filed the administrative complaint against the barangay captain.

She likewise said that the barangay captain should not have taken jurisdiction of the robbery complaints as the case is not within her jurisdiction, citing the Local Government Code of 1991 that limits the Lupon of each barangay to amicably settle disputes over offenses punishable by imprisonment not exceeding one year or a fine not exceeding P5,000.

In her reply, PB Bautista denied Terrazola’s allegations, particularly those quoting her as describing the latter and her son as robbers, as mere fabricated statements.

She said she is knowledgeable about the repercussions of the statement as she is a law graduate.

As to the complainant’s claim of lack of jurisdiction, Bautista said that “any case brought before the barangay may be a valid subject of mediation if the parties agree to submit the case for mediation, save those cases wherein there are no aggrieved private offended parties.”

Citing the lack of sworn statements from Terrazola’s witnesses, the village chief described the raps as devoid of factual basis.

However, the SB Committee on Good Government recommended the determination of the existence of probable cause, with the council proceeding with the preliminary conference on Oct. 13, 2021 and the hearing proper beginning Oct. 27.

In discussing the three main issues of the case, the Sanggunian found no substantial bases to support the allegations that PB Bautista as Lupon chairman committed oppressive acts, citing the lack of evidence.

For her failure to perform all acts expected of her as Punong Barangay and as Lupon chairman, Bautista was held liable for Simple Misconduct.

Citing Supreme Court Administrative Circular No. 14-93 on cases which are not covered by the mandatory barangay mediation, the municipal council said that the case of robbery does not fall within the ambit of the Katarungang Pambarangay Law or the provisions of the Local Government Code.

“The records will show that there were no documents submitted as evidences that shall prove that Punong Barangay Bautista made due considerations of the above-cited limitations and that she made full efforts to explain to both parties the merits of the vase and what appropriate actions should have been taken,” the SB ruling said.

There was likewise no proof that both parties were in agreement to submit the case for mediation, the council stated, with the respondent committing abuse of authority when she took cognizance of the robbery case.

As to the charge of Conduct Prejudicial to the Best Interest of the Service, the Sanggunian said PB Bautista did not take due prudence in preserving the integrity of barangay documents by allowing the barangay secretary to submit the barangay logbook that contained “rewritten” minutes of the conciliation meeting.

Saying that this may be construed as “tampering of official documents” as admitted by the barangay secretary during her testimony, it stressed that the Punong Barangay has tarnished the image and integrity of her public office as the act was in violation of law.

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