Politics

Former Iligan mayor fined over breach of civil service rules

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THE Supreme Court (SC) ruled that a former mayor of Iligan City violated civil service rules following a complaint filed by a city engineer that he ordered transferred.

In a 12-page decision, the SC Second Division found that former Iligan Mayor Lawrence Lluch-Cruz improperly put the city engineer on floating status.

“It bears emphasis that the argument of Robert L. Ong, that his reassignment to the city veterinarian’s office placed him on floating status because he was not given any work thereat has not been controverted,” Senior Associate Justice Marvic M.V.F. Leonen said in the ruling.

Mr. Lluch-Cruz was ordered to pay a fine equivalent to four months’ salary as mayor.

Under Civil Service Commission rules, workers are protected from “acts of cruelty, severity or excessive use of authority (that cause) injury.”

Mr. Ong, a licensed mechanical engineer employed by the city, claimed the reassignment was effectively constructive dismissal since the veterinary office was not part of the city’s organizational structure and that he lacked responsibilities in his new role.

The slaughterhouse where he was posted to was also a separate organization from the city veterinarian’s office.

In 2011, the Civil Service Commission ruled that Mr. Ong’s reassignment order placed the engineer on floating status and violated its reassignment guidelines.

The Ombudsman and the Court of Appeals affirmed the ruling and said the reassignment was not made in good faith.

Mr. Lluch-Cruz argued that the city initially intended to rehabilitate the slaughterhouse. He added that the Ombudsman did not conduct its own probe and only relied on the Civil Service Commission’s conclusions.

The tribunal dismissed this argument, ruling that the Ombudsman was correct to rely on the Civil Service Commission’s findings in determining abuse of authority.

“Clearly, petitioner exercised excessive use of authority to be able to oppress respondent in retaliation for the complaints respondent filed against him,” it said. — John Victor D. Ordoñez