In Sindangan Town, Zamboanga del Norte, Philippines, the Office of the Ombudsman removed a mayor, four barangay chairmen, and a barangay treasurer from their posts for holding illegal small-scale cockfights.
In a joint decision of six administrative cases, the Ombudsman found Sindangan Mayor Rosendo Labadlabad guilty of grave misconduct, for issuing permits to hold the cockfights called tari-tari to the barangay officials. By law, barangay officials are “not qualified to such permits.”
Other officials held accountable and dismissed from service include barangay chairmen Antonio Mohametano, Zosima dela Cerna, Joselito Espinas, and Mysandro Dagondong, and barangay treasurer Rebecca Pacas.
The Ombudsman also charged Labadlabad and the barangay officials last month in the criminal aspect of the same cases, all of which are now elevated to the Sandiganbayan.
The Ombudsman cited Section 89 (a-2) of Republic Act 7160 which reads, “(a) It shall be unlawful for any government official or employee, directly or indirectly, to… (2) Hold any interests in any cockpit or other games by a local government unit.”
Additionally, it also cited Section 5 (d) which states, “… cockfighting shall be allowed only in licensed cockpits.” Sindangan has one licensed cockpit located in the town proper.
Aside from the dismissal order, the Ombudsman also handed the officials the accessory penalties of cancellation of eligibility, forfeiture of retirement benefits, and perpetual disqualification from re-employment in the government service.
Interior Secretary Benjamin Abalos was also directed by the Ombudsman to implement the dismissal order 10 days from the receipt of the decision.
When reached for a statement, Labadlabad’s aide said, “The mayor said he will give his statement to the media. You will know soon.”
Labadlabad and the barangay officials had asserted that the issuance of permits and holding of tari-tari were “regular, valid, and legal” as concerned barangays issued resolutions asking the Sangguniang Bayan to be authorized to hold tari-tari during their fiestas and barangay anniversary celebrations.
According to them, the town government also authorized the holding of tari-tari in their respective barangays. Sindangan’s Licensing and Permits Office processed and prepared the permits, which were then signed by the mayor.
Labadlabad and the officials also noted that the complaint against them was politically motivated and initiated by Leoncio Orillosa, the mayor’s rival who lost to Labadlabad in the 2022 elections.
In his defense, Orillosa stated, “How can it be political when the complaints were filed a year before elections? I just want to protect Sindangan from unscrupulous government officials.”
Peter Co, lawyer and member of Sangguniang Panlalawigan said Labadlabad and the other officials may still appeal the decision on the administrative case before the Ombudsman.
“If the Ombudsman does not reverse its decision, Labadlabad may go to the Court of Appeals and get a temporary restraining order against the Ombudsman decision, which by that time becomes executory,” stated Co.