Vol. XX No. 48

February 07, 2001

Virac, Catanduanes


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Major Developments



Ombudsman clears Sanchez, 8 others

The Ombudsman has dismissed a graft case against Governor Hector S. Sanchez and eight other government officials for participating in the civil wedding of an already married casual employee more than two years ago.

In its decision rendered last Nov. 22, 2000 but approved by Ombudsman Aniano Desierto last Jan. 17, 2001, the Office of the Deputy Ombudsman for Luzon dismissed the case against respondents Sanchez, Provincial Assessor Merito T. Tarrago, then Provincial Prosecutor Rizalina V. Tanon, Provincial Accountant Neptaly C. Tanon, Human Resource Officer IV Seth M. Aguilar, Human Resource Officer III Josefina B. Atutubo, PEO administrative officer Dennis Ubalde, and RTC clerk Edgardo Belaro for lack of merit.

The Ombudsman also cleared LAO III Milagros G. Sabalas but ordered the dismissal of her husband Antonio D. Sarmiento, a casual at the provincial government, from the service for falsification of public documents. Strangely, however, the graft court directed the “Honorable City Mayor, Virac, Catanduanes” to implement the decision within 15 days from receipt of the Order, although Sarmiento is not a casual employee of the municipal government.

It may be recalled that assistant provincial assessor Romeo V. Camano, a known supporter of Rep. Leandro B. Verceles, Jr., filed the complaints against the governor and the nine officials and employees for alleged grave abuse of authority, grave misconduct, gross neglect of duty and falsification of public documents for conspiring with one another in violation of law by acting as witnesses to the alleged illegal marriage of Sarmiento and Sabalas before Municipal Trial Court Judge Nieto T. Tresvalles on December 28, 1998.

Camano claimed that it was public knowledge that Sarmiento is married to Teresita Tayamora, a nursing attendant at the Provincial Health Office, since 1993 and that no petition for annulment of marriage nor legal separation was filed by either of the couple in the courts. He averred that the respondents did not question Sarmiento’s claim that he was single when he married Sabalas after having lived together for eight years.

In their defense, the governor and the other respondent denied the charges, saying that they had no personal knowledge of the status of the couple when they acted as witnesses and had no knowledge or participation in the joint affidavit and application for marriage license.

Gov. Sanchez also claimed that the complaint was meant to corrupt his good name and reputation and attributed ill-motive to Camano, who he said seeks to break even with the governor and others involved with Camano’s reassignment from his post to the governor’s office last Jan. 21, 2000. He informed the Ombudsman that Camano has been complained of for violation of Civil Service rules, notably for being notoriously undesirable and for grave insubordination.

On the other hand, Sabalas said she had no knowledge that Sarmiento was previously married and that she agreed to live with him, believing that he was single, a fact he affirmed under oath in their joint affidavit and application for marriage license filed with the Municipal Civil Registrar of Virac.

For his part, Sarmiento claimed he contracted the marriage with Sabalas in good faith although he did not inform her about his previous marriage. He admitted his previous marriage with Tayamora but they had long separated, with the estranged couple executing a Mutual Agreement for Separation of Properties, Privileges and Rights in 1996.

In her findings, Graft Investigation Officer II Thelma P. Cruz found no merit in the complaint against the respondents, except for Sabalas. She said the witnesses to the Sarmiento-Sabalas marriage cannot be validly charged with the obligation to look into the civil status of the contracting parties.

In signing the marriage contract as witnesses, Cruz added, they merely attested to the fact that the marriage between said parties occurred at the given time and place. “There being no clear and convincing evidence of conspiracy among the parties, it cannot be concluded that they acted in conspiracy…,” she noted.

On the other hand, the Ombudsman said, Sarmiento acted in bad faith in marrying Sabalas. By misrepresenting himself to be single in the Application for Marriage License and in the marriage contract with Sabalas, Sarmiento committed falsification of public documents as charged, Cruz stressed.


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