By Jeffrey Damicog
The Department of Justice (DOJ) has approved the filing of charges against a town mayor in Ilocos Sur for detaining a beach resort operator and several others in 2017.
In a 16-page resolution, the DOJ ordered the indictment of Cabugao Mayor Josh Edward Cabangbang and 18 others for serious illegal detention and grave coercion.
The DOJ resolution granted the petition for review of complainant Virginia Ong who sought to overturn the April 23, 2018 findings by a panel of prosecutors which dismissed the complaint against Cabangbang and his co-respondents. The panel reversed the January 10, 2018 findings of Senior Assistant Provincial Prosecutor Adriano Cabida which already found probable cause to indict Cabangbang and his co-respondents.
“After a circumspect evaluation of the facts presented and the claims and defenses and evidences of both parties, we find merit in the petition,” read the DOJ resolution signed by Undersecretary Deo Marco dated January 15.
Aside from Cabangbang, those also indicted with him are municipal officials and employees, namely, Raquel Ancheta, Constacia Quinola, Gio Serna, Cresencio Formoso, Conrado Segui, Rexor Abara, Richard Pula, Renato Roman Sol, Elmer Ramos, Jessar Cruz, Ronillo Santiago, Kevin Somera, Arvin Manauis, Benny Agbayani, Cara Soriano, Humprey Catriz, Gerly Flores, Ednalyn Silario, and Alvin Solis.
The case stemmed from the decision of the local government to shut down the operations of the government-owned Cabugao Beach Resort (CBR) which was padlocked on August 23, 2017 without any court order while the complainant was still inside along with her four-year-old son and several employees.
Ong became an industrial partner in 2015 of Antonio Valera who leased the CBR from the municipality from 2005 up to 2025.
The complainant took over as operator and continued to pay lease after Valera filed a quit claim on December 1, 2016.
However, Cabangbang demanded Ong to vacate CBR as he intends to implement a local ordinance which offered to lease the property to a new investor.
“While it is undisputed that the municipality owns the CBR, it is equally true that ‘the power of a property [has] no authority to use force and violence to eject alleged usurpers who were in prior possession of it. They must file the appropriate action is court and should not take the law into their own hands’,” the DOJ resolution read.
“Hence, assuming that the lease contract was in fact terminated by Valero through the quit claim and assuming further that the Ordinance may be treated as a sufficient acceptance of the termination of the lease, these do not justify the forcible ejectment of appellant, her young son and her employees who enjoy prior undisturbed possession,” it added.