TABUK CITY, Kalinga – Mayor Darwin C. Estran͂ero willingly accepted and started serving his 6-month suspension meted on him by the Ombudsman for simple misconduct that stemmed from the purchase of personal protective equipment (PPEs) and thermal scanners at supposed higher cost than that pegged by the government at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, saying that he will take the preventive suspension with clear conscience as his actions were geared towards ensuring the health and safety of thousands of Tabuken͂os and sparing them from the effects of the deadly virus.
“I fully respect the Ombudsman’s decision but I hope that the investigating body will find merit on the additional documents I supplied through my motion for reconsideration on the said decision so that things will be placed in their proper perspective” Estran͂ero stressed.
He started serving his suspension last October 2, 2023 where Vice mayor Dick Bal-o took his oath as the Acting City mayor during the period of his temporary absence in office.
Earlier, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) granted the request of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) to exempt from the coverage of the ongoing election ban for the upcoming October 30, 2023 barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections the implementation of the suspension orders that were issued by the Ombudsman to some local officials in the different parts of the country for alleged violations of law that were committed in their discharge of their duties and responsibilities.
The local government was compelled to purchase the PPEs and thermal scanners at higher costs during the implementation of the lockdown to contain the spread of the COVID-19 because there were very limited supplies at that time as almost all establishments were closed and it was also difficult for people to travel to Manila to look for cheaper ones when the need for the same was urgent as part of the implementation of health and safety protocols during the prevalence of the state of national health emergency and state of calamity.
Further, the said purchase was reviewed, recommended and endorsed by the members of the city’s Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) and the city health Services Office which was at the frontline in the implementation of health and safety protocols to contain the spread of the deadly virus among city residents.
However, concerned sectors questioned why it was only Tabuk that was singled out when almost all local governments in the country actually purchased PPEs and thermal scanners at much higher prices compared to the prices pegged by the government as supply at the time was limited and the demand was actually enormous.
“I firmly believe that I made the right decision at that time to purchase the PPEs and the thermal scanners if only to save thousands of Tabuken͂os from the effects of the virus. If the same situation presents itself at this time, I will still come out with a similar decision purposely for the health and safety of the people of Tabuk, no more, no less,” Estran͂ero added.
On the other hand, the Ombudsman dismissed five consolidated criminal and administrative cases that were also filed against the hardworking mayor relative to the purchase of food packs for the frontliners during the pandemic for lack of probable cause.
Many residents questioned the conflicting decision of the Ombudsman on the cases that were filed against the mayor, claiming that something is fishy or that there might be some influential people who have a hand in working out the untimely suspension of the mayor who was just doing his part as a public official during the said difficult times where he prioritized the interest of the majority of the populace rather than his own personal undertakings.
Tabuken͂os lauded the willingness of Mayor Estran͂ero in serving the said suspension while exercising his right to seek redress of his position on the said cases through the motion for reconsideration that he filed before the Ombudsman recently.