City council suspends Zapatera village chief

AFTER a thorough deliberation, the Cebu City Council voted to suspend for two months the village chief of Barangay Zapatera over sexual harassment and graft and corruption complaints that were filed against him.

The Council’s Committee of Three recommended the preventive suspension of Zapatera Barangay Captain Francisco Benedicto while the complaints are being investigated to keep him from influencing the decision.

“After careful perusal of the records, this Committee finds the imposition of preventive suspension proper. From the numerous and overwhelming evidence presented, it is patiently clear that the requirement under the Local Government Code are met and that preventive suspension is necessary to ensure that the evidence will not be tampered with and testimonies remain uncorrupted and a thorough and proper investigation can be conducted,” the committee’s recommendation read.

The committee is composed of south district Councilors Phillip Zafra, Donaldo “Dondon” Hontiveros and Antonio Cuenco.

During the Council’s regular session on Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2019, the opposition councilors opposed the committee’s recommendation, prompting the presiding officer to call for a vote on the matter.

Since an equal number of councilors voted for and against the suspension (7-7) with one abstention, Vice Mayor Michael Rama had to break the tie. He voted for the suspension of Benedicto, an ally of the Bando Osmeña Pundok Kauswagan (BOPK).

The Committee of Three received the complaints against Benedicto, which includes the complaint for gross misconduct and dereliction of duty filed by lawyer Jigo Dacua, who heads the City Environment and Natural Resources Office.

Benedicto is accused of violating the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act and City Ordinances 1361 (Anti-Littering Ordinance) and 2031 (Solid Waste Segregation at Source Ordinance).

Another complaint filed against the village chief was a complaint filed by the barangay councilors for acts prejudicial to the interest of public service.

He was accused of graft and corruption when he allegedly ordered barangay treasurer Jackylou Quijano to release the honoraria of a barangay tanod who did not report for duty, and his order for barangay liaison officer Charlenn Aristine Bersales not to issue a receipt for the rent of their barangay bus and gym.

Benedicto is also facing a complaint for sexual harassment filed by Bersales and illegal termination, which was filed by Quijano, Bersales, Calixto Carin Jr. and William Ugang Jr.

The complaints were filed before the Office of the Ombudsman.

Benedicto allegedly appointed new barangay personnel without authority from the barangay council.

He is also facing complaints for allegedly removing the wiring and cable of the biometrics machine to prevent barangay workers from logging in for work.

Benedicto also allegedly locked the barangay hall and allegedly refused to sign checks for the honorarium of barangay workers.

Superbalita Cebu tried to call Benedicto through the barangay hall’s phone line but he could not be reached. A private message was also sent to his social media account but he had yet to reply as of press time.

Councilor Zafra said the office of Mayor Edgardo Labella will serve the suspension order any time this week. (PAC, LRC)