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One on One with Atty Doni Piquero
« on: December 10, 2008, 07:46:47 PM »
Written By Loy Palapos
Sunday Post

      Two years as City Legal Officer must have been quite a learning experience for Atty. Doni Donguiness Piquero (DDP). When he came to City Hall to take over the position vacated by Atty. Handel Lagunay in 2006, he already had a bagful of exposure to the local justice system for his 10-year private practice and as Provincial Head of ELAC (Environmental Legal Assistance), aside from his teaching stint at the Holy Name University, where he is a graduate both in AB-Philosophy (1989) and Law (1995).

      He is married to Mildred Gementiza-Piquero, an educator working at the Bohol Schools Division Office of the Department of Education. As a husband and father, he has earned his spurs well. It is in his profession as a Lawyer that he finds many challenges which have motivated him to be at his best all the time. Being the Legal Officer of Tagbilaran City, he sometimes finds himself the target of tri-pronged questions which he tries to answer the best way he could without being accused of prejudice nor discrimination. He understands the situation he is in… where he cannot help but be involved in some political innuendos.

LMP: How long have you been working as the Legal Officer of Tagbilaran City?

DDP: I was appointed City Legal Officer in July 2006. This is my second year.

LMP: Was it part of your plan to work at City Hall?

      DDP: Actually, I was connected then with ELAC or the Environmental Legal Assistance Center. In 2006, I told our Executive Director that I would go into private practice because the financial aspect of ELAC was not good at that time. Then, Mayor Lim asked me how long had I been practicing Law and if I am interested in working with him. It was an opportunity and a challenge, so I grabbed it.

LMP: Have you no regrets?

DDP: None at all. I enjoyed it because of the challenges.

LMP: What were the problems you had?

DDP: More on sacrifice. I have less time for my family and myself.

LMP: What takes most of your time?

      DDP: Mostly, preparation of meetings, research and appearances in court. I’m also allowed to engage in private practice which is also stated in the Local Government Code. I have the go-signal of the Mayor to practice privately.

LMP: Is there no conflict?

      DDP: There are limitations. Like, you cannot represent cases where the opposing party is the government.

      LMP: Since becoming the Legal Officer, have you handled more public than private cases?

DDP: I see to it that I limit my private cases.

LMP: Which is more challenging, private or public case?

DDP: I think each case has its own challenges.

LMP: How many cases have you handled involving the City Hall?

DDP: More than twenty cases already.

LMP: How did you do in those cases? Your batting average.

DDP: More than 90 percent.

LMP: That’s a big accomplishment. The drainage controversy, where do you come in?

      DDP: As of this time, there is no case filed against the City, so we are not involved. Regarding aspects like the environment, I’m involved in the acquisition of 23 hectares of lands in preparation for the waste water treatment facility.

LMP: Is that public land?

DDP: Most of them are private lands.

LMP: How many owners are involved?

      DDP: For the solid waste management, more or less twenty owners. For the waste water treatment, almost forty.

LMP: What did the City do, through you, in order to acquire these lands?

      DDP: I helped in the preparation of the resolutions which will authorize the City Mayor to purchase the lots.

      LMP: Is that already done?

      DDP: If the owners will consent to our proposal, then, it will be done. But if there are land owners who will not agree, then we will be forced to file a case for expropriation.

LMP: Therefore, the negotiation is still on?

DDP: Yes. Nothing is final.

LMP: How many owners have voluntary sold their lands, so far?

      DDP: Not yet. Although last year, there was a meeting with the land owners and majority of them were willing. No one objected to the proposal.

LMP: Are these lands being used or are they idle lands?

DDP: Only a few portions are used as residential areas.

LMP: Is there any opposition to the acquisition of the land?

      DDP: There are those who oppose. But if the government will really use this for public purposes, then the government can exercise its power over them.

      LMP: Is that something which emanates from the Mayor or it still has to go through the legislative body?

      DDP: It still has to pass through the legislature. With respect to the purchase of lands, there was already a resolution approved by the SP, granting the Mayor authority to purchase.

LMP: When do you think this will materialize?

DDP: This week. I’m already preparing the letters for the land owners.

      LMP: Comparatively, if you assess the pro and the con, are most of the people for this project? Is that the way you look at it?

      DDP: Most of the people are for this project. For one, this will improve our environment, will solve the problem on waste water, and solve our solid waste problem.

LMP: What role does the Barangay Captain play?

      DDP: The Barangay Captain is the one who will explain to the people the importance of the project because he is in close contact with the residents. Also, he will assist us in negotiating with the land owners.

      LMP: One subject in the past weeks during the rainy season, which reached the headlines of some newspaper is the clogging of some solidified cement which were placed in the manhole of San Jose St. so that it will not be useful. What is the update of that now?

      DDP: I’m not aware of it. If ever that is true, that may be done by people who are against the move of the Mayor to open the outfall and place the Mayor in the bad light.

      LMP: The latest controversy is about this case with the Commission on Audit. What is the status now?

      DDP: As far as my office is concerned, there are no complaints filed against officials who were not able to liquidate their cash advances. I supposed that some of these cash advances were undertaken by some agencies involving, let’s say, a big activity. Probably they have a hard time gathering all the documents that would support their liquidation.

      LMP: Is there a law which specifies the period of time for the supporting documents to be prepared for any cash advance? There are many who say that this always happens in the government bureaucracy, so there’s nothing to declare war for.

      DDP: I’m not very familiar with the COA guidelines, but I think after several cash advances, if you’re not able to liquidate, you cannot anymore make any cash advance. COA will then send you a letter and give you an ultimatum to liquidate. Otherwise you will be asked to refund the amount you cash advanced. If they cannot do that, that’s the time the COA will file a case.

      LMP: Would that be discretionary on the part of COA as far as the time element is concerned?

      DDP: Yes. Let’s say for example, if one is involved in a seminar and his attendance is approved by his Head, so there is a supporting document for that and you are allowed to withdraw in advance an amount that will be used to finance your travel and all. I think there is no problem because the amount is withdrawn or used for a legitimate activity if duly approved. The only problem is for you to liquidate. Some public officials could not produce some of the supporting documents, that’s why some could not liquidate immediately. These cash advances were made because there were activities that were duly approved. These were not just taken for no reason at all.

LMP: How does this affect your office since there are officers in City Hall which are targeted by some people?

      DDP: Personally, I see it as politically motivated. Because if they would want to know if there is really a big amount of money involved, all they have to do is go the Accounting Office or to the COA and look at the records rather than go to the media and press.

LMP: From your own point of view, would you rather brand it as a fishing expedition?

      DDP: That is how I view it. It’s more of that rather than a real investigation. COA reported that there is nothing anomalous. They just said that this is not a good accounting practice because if you have unliquidated cash advances, it will not look good as far as your financial aspect is concerned.

      LMP: Politics is definitely involved since you work with the City Mayor. How do you distance yourself?

      DDP: My position is highly confidential and this is founded on the trust and confidence of the Mayor. If he does not trust me anymore, then I can be kicked out anytime. So I cannot get away from this political squabble.

      LMP: So far, in two years time have you been a target of this kind of squabble? If the Mayor was targeted through you, how did you handle the situation?

      DDP: There are a few incidents along that line. As long as I do my job in accordance with my mandate, I think there is no problem. As long as I do not do anything that is illegal, I won’t be having any problems with these attacks. It’s part of the territory. I know that as long as I’m here, I’m vulnerable to any of these attacks because I am considered as the alter ego of the Mayor, and I am prepared for that.

LMP: How is your relationship with the Chief Executive?

DDP: I think I have no problem ever since I started here.

      LMP: Trust begets trust. Does that mean that you also have a full trust and confidence from the Mayor?

      DDP: I have been living in Tagbilaran City for more than half of my life, and I’ve never seen a Mayor as dedicated and as honest like the one at the helm now.

      Atty. Doni Piquero has gained enough maturity in dealing with ticklish situations. There may be moves to faze or intimidate him, in a position where the less astute may succumb to pressures. But his 12 years in lawyering has proven its worth in making him a reasonably steadfast individual who shares the Mayor’s concern for good service.

      For him, honesty is still the best policy; thus, his retorts to queries are still as candid as any legally-oriented mind could be. He may believe in white lies, but that’s not the crux of any important matter. More significant to him is his self-esteem in assessing even the most excruciating legal scenario. He knows his codes to live by, the philosophy of his existence, his desire to be of service to the community no matter how trivial it could be.

      He knows that admiration, respect, and honor are not given free. They are to be earned. Starting off with self-respect as a human being, he knows the route he has to take in order to be a part of progress and development, not for himself but for the entire community.   

Romans 10:9
"That if you shall confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and shall believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you shall be saved."

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