Supporters of Aborlan mayor Jaime Ortega this week slammed the Provincial Legal Office (PLO) for serving his suspension order by simply leaving it on a flower pot outside his home.
Photos of the suspension order have been circulating in the social media after they were posted on January 17 by netizens.
A photo taken by JD Nikki Jaguar showed the suspension order being secured by a piece of stone to hold it in place against the wind.
“Sa totoo lang po ganito nila sinerve ang suspension para kay mayor Ortega. Iniwan lang sa harap ng bahay inipit ng bato sa halaman napaka bastos na mga tao [insert angry emojis],” Jaguar’s post said.
In a phone interview with Palawan News, Ortega confirmed Friday that the suspension order was indeed left outside his house on January 9 by a representative of the province’s legal office.
He said he was at the West Coast to check some municipal projects when it was served.
“Pagbalik ko galing ng West Coast sabi ng manugang ko may nakaipit daw doon sa bato na para sa akin. Wala kasing magtanggap sa munisipyo kaya siguro dito nila dinala sa bahay. Ayaw naman tanggapin ng manugang ko kaya inipit nila doon. Marami ang nakakita na inipit nila doon,” he said.
Ortega, who was suspended for six months by the provincial government due to “dereliction of duty” involving water system projects worth P67 million in Aborlan, said the PLO representative brought it to his home when municipal government employees refused to receive it in his office.
He said he ignored the suspension order until he was told that someone posted it on the bulletin board of the municipal hall building.
“Hindi ko naman pinansin ‘yon, pinabayaan ko. Hanggang mga ilang araw sinabihan ako ng guard [ng munisipyo] na may nagkabit na ng order sa bulletin board,” he said.
In defense, provincial legal officer Atty. Teodoro Jose Matta said the “call out” is a desperate attempt by Ortega’s side to deny his suspension.
He said it was served to Ortega by a “process server” in his office in the municipal hall and at his house.
“Hindi naman siya ang kailangan mismo na mag-receive, maski ang opisina niya lang o ang abogado niya ay puwede. Nasa notice niya naman ‘yon at nakalagay na natanggap niya. Abogado at process server ang nag-serve. Jaime admitted notice in his ‘Notice’ dated January 10,” Matta said.
Atty. Ariel Abis, the PLO representative who served the suspension order, explained further in a separate interview that what was left in Ortega’s home was merely a photo copy of the original they left in the municipal government building and at the Sangguniang Bayan.
He denied criticisms that they were indifferent in attitude or incautious about the document.
“Wala kasi siya sa office niya at naka-official travel daw. Ayaw tanggapin ng municipal administrator doon noong January 9 nang i-serve namin ang copies ng original suspension order niya pero iniwan pa rin namin ‘yon doon sa municipal hall. Nag-iwan din kami ng kopya sa Sangguniang Bayan at doon sa bahay niya na ayaw naman tanggapin ng kasambahay niya. ‘Yong pag-iwan ng kopya sa bahay niya ay parang reiteration lang na may suspension order siya,” Abis said also Friday.
The suspension order on Ortega followed his three-month October 2018 “preventive suspension” while the “dereliction of duty” complaint filed against him by Aborlan resident Gregorio Echague III was being investigated.
Ortega was accused of deliberately violating municipal and provincial ordinances and sabotaging government water projects that is injurious to the interest of services in relation to the operation of the provincial government-initiated water system projects at Bubusawin, Yale Falls, Tagalipid and Inung Suran in Barangay Culandanum, Aborlan.
On January 14, Ortega said he will not leave the municipal mayor’s office because his suspension by the provincial government did not follow the due process of law and that he has an appeal to the Office of the President in Malacañang.
“Una, mayroon akong appeal sa president [kaya hindi muna natin susundin ang order ng Sangguniang Panlalawigan]. Pangalawa, hinatulan nila ako na wala sa tamang proseso. Unang pagdinig pa lang hindi na dumating ang complainant, samantalang sa house rules nila nakalagay na ‘the failure of the complainant to appear in the preliminary conference shall be caused of dismissal of his complaint’ pero pinagbigyan pa rin ng Provincial Board. We will wait for the final decision of the higher offices,” he explained.