|DISMISSED TREASURER of Quezon City government Edgar Villanueva
QUEZON CITY — The Office of the Ombudsman (Ombudsman) has ordered the dismissal from the service of Officer-in-Charge-Treasurer Edgar Villanueva after he was found guilty of oppression.
Villanueva’s dismissal from the service was prompted by an investigation into the imposition and assessment of real property taxes against the Manila Seedling Bank Foundation, Inc. (MSBFI) in 2011.
Aside from dismissal from the service, Villanueva was also perpetually disqualified from holding public office with cancellation of eligibility and forfeiture of retirement benefits.
In case of separation from the service, the penalty is convertible to a fine equivalent to respondent’s salary for one year.
In May 2011, Villanueva issued a Statement of Delinquency against the MSBFI for unpaid real property tax liabilities totaling P42.8 million.
One month later in June 2011, the Final Notice of Delinquency and Warrant of Levy were issued.
In July 2012, the MSBFI was ordered to immediately vacate the premises.
The MSBFI’s premises and gates were padlocked by Quezon City officials.
In its complaint, the MSBFI said that the property is owned by the National Housing Authority (NHA) and that it received no Notice of Assessment for the tax liability.
In its ruling, the Ombudsman said that “in enforcing collection of taxes against MSBFI without the required notice of assessment, Villanueva denied MSBFI its right to due process, which consists [of] the opportunity to avail of the remedy provided under the [Local Government Code].”
“Absent such prior notice of assessment, the Warrant of Levy issued to MSBFI and the succeeding auction sale conducted by the City Treasurer had no legal mooring,” the Ombudsman ruling added.
Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales said that “Villanueva gravely abused his authority in the discharge of his official duties when he enforced taxes without prior notice of assessment.”
Morales added that “any injury sustained by MSBFI as an offshoot of the flawed tax enforcement would be undue and unwarranted for lack of legal basis on the part of the City Treasurer to demand payment.”
She expounded that “even assuming that MSBFI is liable for real property taxes, the [Office of the City Treasurer] may not validly levy and sell the property since it is owned by a government entity [NHA] exempt from taxes.”
As early as in 2014, Quezon City Mayor Herbert Bautista has asked the Department of Finance (DoF) to relieve Villanueva as city treasurer for allegedly flaunting the perks of a lavish lifestyle from signature clothes to a fleet of luxury vehicles.
It was reported by Manila Times, quoting a letter dated May 6, 2014 and received by the office of DoF Secretary Cesar Purisima on May 8, Mayor Bautista even recommended Basilia Pacis, an Assistant Department Head III employee to replace Villanueva and be designated as Office-in-Charge of the city’s Treasury Department.
“She enjoys the trust and confidence of this humble representation, thus I can vouchsafe for her concrete contribution to the growth of Quezon City,” Bautista wrote Purisima.
The letter was the second sent by Bautista to the DoF. The first one received by the department on April 23 indicated the request of the Mayor to replace Villanueva after almost four years in his position.
While Bautista explained to Purisima in his letter that “DoF Personnel Order 305-2000 specifically provides that the Secretary of Finance shall exercise the authority to appoint local Treasurer and their Assistant for National Capital Region,” three names were recommended by the Mayor as possible replacements for Villanueva.
Bautista in the first letter recommended Pacis, Voltaire Enriquez (also a City Assistant Department Head III) and Arvin Philip Gotladera, Local Treasury Operations Officer II as replacements.
“I am exercising this option to recommend the replacement of the designated
Treasurer, Edgar Villanueva for Quezon City,” Bautista wrote in his letter to Purisima.
City hall insiders said a longstanding rift between the mayor and Villanueva must have led Bautista to tell the DoF his preferred replacement for his city treasurer.