Bacolod mayor, 8 employees cleared of graft raps
ILOILO CITY — The Court of Appeals (CA) has reversed the dismissal from service of Bacolod City Mayor Evelio Leonardia and eight other city officials and employees accused of graft.
In a 16-page decision promulgated on Sept. 6, the CA’s Former 18th Division in Cebu City reversed the Dec. 2, 2016, resolution of the Ombudsman finding Leonardia and his co-accused guilty of grave misconduct and gross neglect of duty in the administrative aspect of the case in connection with alleged irregularities in the purchase of office equipment, furniture and fixtures amounting to about P49 million.
It was “not proper” for the Ombudsman to find the respondents guilty of grave misconduct and gross neglect of duty, according to the appeals court.
“There is no showing that the acts … were tainted with corruption or that petitioners benefited (from them),” according to the decision.
The decision was penned by Associate Justice Germano Francisco Legaspi. Associate Justices Gabriel Ingles (executive judge) and Marilyn Lagura-Yap concurred.
The CA absolved Leonardia and members of the city’s bids and awards committee—Goldwyn Nifras (chair), Luzviminda Treyes (vice chair), and Nelson Sedillo; and technical working group members, Jaries Ebenizer Encabo, Belly Aguillon and Aladino Agbones.
But the CA said two employees, Melvin Recabar (secretariat head) and Eduardo Ravena (tehnical working group member), were guilty of simple misconduct for retaining the bidder’s bond of the supplier and treating it as a performance bond. They were suspended for three months without pay.
The CA, however, ordered the reinstatement of all officials and employees who have not retired or were separated from service, and the payment of their back wages or other benefits.
The Ombudsman, in its resolution, found the officials guilty of violating procurement rules by awarding the contract to supply “property, plant and equipment, furniture and fixtures” for the New Bacolod City Government Center to Comfac Corp.
The company was ineligible to bid for the contract because it was a distributor, not a manufacturer of furniture, according to the Ombudsman.
The Ombudsman had also indicted Leonardia and the other officials and employees for criminal liabilities.
But the CA said the bidding did not limit eligible bidders to furniture manufacturers or those with manufacturing facilities.
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