CITY Councilor Maria Mylen Yaranon has taken legal action against City Mayor Benjamin Magalong by filing a case before the Office of the Ombudsman for Grave Misconduct, Grave Abuse of Authority, Conduct Prejudicial to the Best Interest of the Service, and a violation of Section 4 of Republic Act No. 6713.
The basis for Yaranon’s complaint revolves around the acquisition of two parcels of land in Topinao, Tuba, Benguet, owned by William Tan Jr. and his daughter, Hazel Dominique Tan.
Yaranon contends that the land purchase is marred by several questionable factors. According to her, Mayor Magalong twice sought the city council’s authorization to acquire the land, but the requests were reportedly not granted. Despite the lack of approval, Magalong allegedly proceeded to sign the Deed of Sale on January 10, 2023, without proper authorization.
Highlighting concerns about the purchased property, Yaranon remarked, “You’re buying a property that has no developed road yet. That will be an added cost to the city of Baguio. They (also) said that the cost is cheap, but if you compare it to the other costs of the land in the area, it’s relatively expensive.”
Moreover, Yaranon raised the issue that the land, designated for potential housing projects, is presently classified as agricultural. This classification entails a lengthy reclassification process before the land can be utilized, adding uncertainty about its safety and stability.
Yaranon further alleges that Magalong failed to disclose the city’s plans to acquire land in advance, providing an advantageous window to Tan while rejecting other offers from six different landowners in Baguio. She claims that Magalong did not conduct a public bidding when presented with alternative land options but chose to purchase Tan’s two lots.
The cost of the land, valued at P1,650 per square meter with an estimated additional P10 million in taxes, is allegedly excessive. Yaranon argued that this valuation surpasses real estate prices in nearby barangays, despite the Commission on Audit (COA) property evaluation reports indicating that a significant portion of the purchased lot is unsuitable for priority infrastructure projects due to its rolling and steep slopes.
Yaranon asserts that Magalong’s lack of due diligence, concerns about pricing and legality, exclusion from the city’s development plans, and the immediate release of full payment constitute grave misconduct, abuse of authority, conduct prejudicial to the best interests of the service, and a violation of Section 4 of Republic Act 6713.
In her petition, Yaranon seeks Magalong’s preventive suspension, filing of information for violation of Section 3, Republic Act 3019, and immediate dismissal from his position as City Mayor.
The complaint itself however stated that on April 22, 2020, the Sangguniang Panlungsod of Baguio enacted Ordinance No. 42 Series of 2020 “Reverting to the General Fund the amount of P704,190,392 and reappropriating the same amount for the funding of various priority projects under the annual investment plan for fiscal year 2020 of the city of Baguio. It further stated that P120,000,000 of the said reverted funds was appropriated for “Purchase of Land in Topinao, Tuba, Benguet.