Alecha v. Pasion (G.R. No.164506; January 19, 2010)

CASE DIGEST: PAULINO M. ALECHA AND PRECIOSO M. TAPITAN, PETITIONERS, VS. ELMER BEN V. PASION, RODOLFO M. ELMAN, ANTONIO E. VALENZUELA, MAYOR ULYSSES D. PEREZ, VICE MAYOR STEWART R. PADAYHAG, SB[1] MEMBER PABLO MANTOS SR., SB MEMBER CASIMERO BAOBAO, SB MEMBER FILOMENO ROSILLOSA, SB MEMBER FELICIANO OLING, SB MEMBER NORBERTO RAMOS, SB MEMBER LUIS PALONGPALONG, SB MEMBER ROGELIO BUGTAY, SB MEMBER OSCAR ATAY, ABC[2] PRESIDENT PRIMITIVO VERDAD, JR., SKF CHAIRMAN JACKSON PADAYHAG, ABC PRESIDENT SERGIO DAGOLDOL, SFK[3] CHAIRMAN TRISTAN B. BAGUIO, MUN. SECRETARY PROTACIO ELMIDULAN, JR., MPDC VICENTE LLESIS, CIVIL REGISTRAR MEDARDO COLITA, BUDGET OFFICER RAMONITA B. BAGUIO, MUN. ENGR. SEGUNDO ARANDID, JR., MUN. ASSESSOR WILFREDO FLORES, MAO ALEJANDRO JIMENEZ, MUN. ACCOUNTANT AVELINO DEDORO AND DSWD[4] [OFFICER] SUSAN MAGO, RESPONDENTS. (G.R. No.164506; January 19, 2010)FACTS: Petitioners Paulino M. Alecha and Precioso M. Tapitan filed before the Ombudsman (Mindanao) a criminal complaint against respondent municipal officials of the Municipality of Midsalip, Zamboanga del Sur for violation of Section 3(e) of Republic Act (RA) 3019, Section 81 of RA 7160,Section 10 of RA 6758and RA 9137.In their letter-complaint,petitioners averred that respondent municipal officials conspired in unlawfully adopting and actually collecting the salaries, representation and travel allowances (RATA) and personnel economic relief assistance (PERA) of public officials for special cities and/or first class provinces or cities, notwithstanding the fact that the Municipality of Midsalip had no financial capacity to cover such expenditures, thus seriously affecting the delivery of basic services within its jurisdiction. The Ombudsman (Mindanao) dismissed the complaint against respondent municipal officials.

ISSUE: Is Masidlip prohibited from adopting a salary schedule equivalent to that of a special city or first-class province?

A fifth-class municipality like Midsalip is not absolutely prohibited from adopting a salary schedule equivalent to that of a special city or a first-class province. Local Budget Circular No. 64 dated January 1, 1997, in conjunction with paragraph 11 of Local Budget No. 56, allows local government units (LGUs) lower than special cities and first-class provinces and cities to adopt a salary scheme for special cities and first-class provinces. The adoption of a higher salary schedule needs only to comply with the following requirements: (1)the LGU is financially capable; (2)the salary schedule to be adopted shall be uniformly applied to all positions in the in the LGU concerned; (3)the salary schedule for the special and highly urbanized cities and first class provinces and cities shall not be higher than that being adopted by the national government; (4)in implementing a new and higher salary schedule, the salary grade allocation of positions and the salary steps of personnel shall be retained; (5)the adoption of the higher salary schedule shall be subject to the budgetary and general limitations on personal services expenditures mandated under Sections 324 and 325 of RA 7160; (6)in the case of component cities and municipalities, the salary schedule to be adopted shall not be higher than that of the province or city in the case of some municipalities, where they belong and (7)the adoption of a higher salary schedule shall not in any manner alter the existing classification of the LGU concerned. It is beyond cavil that the Municipality of Midsalip has complied with the above conditions.

Five years into the implementation of the higher salary schedule, the Municipality of Midsalip had savings of P14,913,554.68 in its bank account.The financial capability of the Municipality of Midsalip, as shown by the certified statement of savings of unobligated balances for the years 2002 and 2003 issued by the Midsalip municipal treasurer and accountant, revealed repeated surplus accounts in the amounts of P7,709,311.64 andP5,070,913.23 for the said years, respectively. The certification of the Midsalip municipal accountant dated January 14, 2003 also stated that there was no realignment or disbursement of the 20% municipal development project for personal services expenditures from 1998 to 2002. Petitioners themselves do not deny that the local budget ordinance of the Municipality of Midsalip (which adopted the salary schedule of special cities) was duly approved by the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Zamboanga del Sur (thus becoming part of the provincial budget ordinance of said province) and later, by the Department of Budget and Management. The Commission on Audit, in turn, after reviewing and auditing the expenditures of the Municipality of Midsalip (including the assailed salaries and allowances) did not disallow or suspend the foregoing disbursements and/or expenditures. Therefore, the Ombudsman committed no grave abuse of discretion in dismissing the letter-complaint of petitioners against respondent municipal officials. DISMISSED.

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