DILG: No legal impediment

PLANNED CITY HALL TRANSFER

THERE is no legal impediment seen by the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) in the planned transfer of the Dagupan City Hall to a 1.2- hectare land being donated by the brother of Mayor Belen Fernandez.

This was contained in the legal opinion (No. 15, Series of 2017 dated July 26, 2027) signed by DILG Undersecretary Austere A. Panadero bared by Councilor Jose Netu Tamayo in his privilege speech during the regular session of the city council last Monday.

Tamayo, author of the draft ordinance seeking the transfer of the Dagupan City Hall from A.B. Fernandez Avenue to the Pantal-Lucao area and seeking the reclassification of the proposed donated land from agricultural to non-agricultural, said the DILG responded to two questions posed by seven members of the city council.

He said the questions responded to were: Are they liable for violation of the anti-graft and corrupt practices act if they pass the ordinance, and will Mayor Belen Fernandez be liable for violation of the same act if she accepts the donation of her brother by reason of “conflict of interest.”

The DILG opinion came on the heels of another favorable opinion rendered by the Commission on Audit (COA) signed by Atty. Robert de Ocampo, resident auditor, early in July that there is no law that will be violated if Mayor Fernandez accepts and signs the deed of donation and neither will there be a conflict of interest on her part if she does.

On the issue of conflict of interests, Panadero said the SP members who will sign the ordinance are not liable for anti-graft and corrupt practices act as “Republic Act No. 6713 and the Anti-Corrupt Practices Act mentioned in Paragraph (h) and (i) of RA 3019 presuppose that the public official in faithfully performing an official duty will oppose or affect his own interest is a private corporation or business which he is affiliated.”

The DILG also noted that Kerwin Fernandez, the brother of the mayor, is the only one in Dagupan who is offering to donate a property as site of the new City Hall.

Nonetheless, Mayor Fernandez had deferred the acceptance of the donation and the signing of the deed of donation to allow other property owners along the Pantal-Lucao area to offer to donate lands as alternative site for the new Dagupan City Hall.

The five-week grace period expires August 7.

Panadero said the view that the corresponding increase in the value of the parcels of land adjoining the donated lot is only incidental.

It noted that the CSI Group of Companies is not alone that will benefit from any increase in value of properties “but also other owners of properties adjoining the area.”

After the session, Councilor Tamayo said the DILG opinion further boosts the position of the majority city council.

Councilor Redford Erfe Mejia, the lone councilor opposing the draft resolution and alleging graft and corruption if the donation pushes, did not comment on the DILG legal opinion read by Tamayo. (Leonardo Micua)