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Court ousts Koronadal mayor Ogiena over 2016 conviction

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GENERAL SANTOS CITY — A Regional Trial Court (RTC) has granted a quo warranto petition seeking the removal of incumbent Koronadal City Mayor Eliordo Ogena due to an administrative conviction decided by the Supreme Court (SC) in 2016.

In a six-page decision issued on Thursday (March 5), RTC Branch 42 Judge Jordan Reyes ruled to disqualify Ogena from holding office as his candidacy for mayor in the May 13, 2019 elections should have been nullified after being found guilty by the SC for an administrative offense involving moral turpitude.

The court found the mayor-elect guilty of “unlawfully holding and exercising the office of the mayor of Koronadal City” and declared him “ousted and removed”.

“The position of the Office of the Mayor of Koronadal City is hereby declared vacant,” the court ruled.

Incumbent Koronadal City Vice Mayor Peter Miguel filed quo warranto petition in August last year, questioning Ogena’s qualification as mayoral candidate.

Miguel, a former three-term mayor of Koronadal City, argued that Ogena was ineligible to run for mayor based on Section 40 of the Local Government Code of 1991, which sets the grounds for disqualification of those running for local elective posts.

He said Ogena, a lawyer, was deemed disqualified under Section 40a as he was found guilty and “sentenced by final judgment of an offense involving moral turpitude” by the Supreme Court.

The SC decision, which was issued on Feb. 2, 2016, stemmed from a complaint filed in 2006 against Ogena before the Integrated Bar of the Philippines for falsification of documents over a land-related case.

The High Court said Ogena was negligent in the performance of his duty as a notary public for failing to “require the personal presence of the signatories of the documents and proceeded to notarize the aforementioned documents without the signatures of all the parties”.

It said the accused failed to “comply with the most basic function that a notary public must do — to require the parties to present their residence certificates or any other document to prove their identities”.

The court said Ogena was “liable for such negligence, not only as a notary public but also as a lawyer” and had “engaged in unlawful, dishonest, immoral or deceitful conduct”. He was suspended by the SC from practicing law for two years and permanently barred from being commissioned as a notary public.

In his defense, Ogena said his disqualification from being a notary public and the administrative sanction issued by the High Court did not constitute moral turpitude.

He said the administrative penalty meted by the SC did not bar him from running for any elective position.

“In the meantime, our residents should not worry because I am still the mayor. This is not final and executory,” he said.

In a radio interview, Miguel also urged residents to remain calm and refrain from overreacting or resorting to violence over the matter.

“We are following the (legal) processes and will not force this. It should be business as usual (at the city government),” he said. (PNA)

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