Morales denies clearing Bello to avoid affecting Ombudsman bid
Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales has denied dismissing the case against Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III to clear away any stumbling block against his bid to become her replacement.
Morales on Thursday confirmed she had dismissed the graft and gross neglect of duty complaint against Bello in connection with his stint as former general manager of the Philippine Reclamation Authority (PRA).
The dismissed case involved PRA’s alleged failure to impose penalties on Manila Bay Development Corp., despite its failure to develop the Central Business Park II property along Roxas Boulevard, Parañaque City, by the targeted year of 2002.
Morales’s disclosure came a day after Bello told reporters that he had secured an Ombudsman clearance for his pending application before the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC).
Had his case remained pending, Bello could have been disqualified from seeking the position—which Morales would occupy until July 25—under Rule 4, Section 5 of the Rules of the JBC.
Morales defended the timing of her move when asked by reporters at the sidelines of a forum by the Asian Confederation of Institutes of Internal Auditors in Pasay City.
She claimed she dismissed the complaint because it was already “ripe for resolution,” even though it only reached preliminary investigation last year.
She disclosed, however, that the respondents “kept on filing motions for early resolution” to speed up the case. “Perhaps, they were confident the case did not merit serious consideration,” she told reporters.
Revilla, Jaworski, Domingo
Morales approved the resolution clearing Bello on June 14, six days before his JBC interview. The Ombudsman only released a copy of the resolution on Thursday.
Cleared alongside Bello were former Senators Ramon Revilla Sr. and Robert Jaworski, incumbent Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. chair Andrea Domingo, and dozens of other former officials of the Philippine Reclamation Authority.
The Ombudsman’s Field Investigation Office—which acts as the complainant—said the PRA executives should have forfeited MBDC’s P47.2-million performance bond and imposed an unspecified amount of damages.
The case concerned the 410,467-square meter property along Roxas Boulevard, Parañaque City, which was sold to MBDC in 1988 and its development should have been completed by 2002.
Yet, the containment walls for the reclaimed land were only fully built from 2013 to 2016. Meanwhile, of the vertical development commitments, only Coastal Mall and Warehouse Club were built on the property.
Unaware of performance bond
Still, the Ombudsman gave weight to the PRA executives’ claim that they were not aware of the existence of the performance bond.
It said the issue of the bond or MBDC’s breach of its contractual obligations were never brought to the PRA executives’ attention, which meant they “cannot be reasonably expected to take action.”
“There is no evidence, documentary or otherwise, that respondents actually had knowledge of the subject Performance Bond and the conditions for its forfeiture,” the resolution read.
The investigators also failed to establish that MBDC failed to comply with its obligations and show the executives inflicted undue injury on the government.
The other exonerated officials were former board chairs Frisco San Juan and Ernest Villareal, and board members Carmelita de Leon, Elpidio Damaso, Daniel Dayan, Leo Padilla, Sulpicio Tagud, Joemari Gerochi, Salvador Sarabia Jr., Angelito Villanueva, Martin Sanciego Jr., Rodolfo Tuazon, Diomedio Villanueva, Tomas Alcantara, Vicente Suazo, Jose Feria Jr., Antonio Soriano, Datu Ibrahim Paglas III, Edilberto Emphasis, Juan Antonio Gatuslao, Roseller Valera, Raymundo Roquero, Eleazar Quinto, Pedro Laylo Jr., Robrerto Muldong, Peter Anthony Abaya, Manuel Medina, Reynaldo Robles, Rene Enrique Silos, Virgilio Ambion, Ernesto Punzalan, Sherisa Nuesa, and Edilberto de Jesus. /muf
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