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Sandiganbayan dismisses graft case vs Bacolod mayor

ILOILO CITY—The Sandiganbayan has dismissed a graft case against Bacolod City Mayor Evelio Leonardia and nine other city officials and employees because of the “inordinate” delay in investigating and resolving the case that reached more than eight years.

In a three-page resolution promulgated on Jan. 26, the Sandiganbayan’s 4th Division upheld the assertion of Leonardia that the duration of the case and the reason for the delay “violated the constitutional guarantee against inordinate delay.”

The Sandiganbayan dismissed the graft charges against Leonardia and the other officials in relation to the purchase of the P49.1-million worth of furniture and fixtures for the New Bacolod City National Government Center in 2008.

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The court also lifted the hold departure order issued against the accused.

Leonardia’s co-accused included Goldwyn Nifras, Luzviminda Treyes, Nelson Sedillo, Melvin Recabar, Eduardo Ravena, Jaries Ebenizer Encabo, Belly Aguillon, Aladino Agbones and Annabelle Badajos.

The mayor welcomed the ruling.

Relief

“It’s a relief. An answered prayer. It was never a case of dishonesty. Even in the Ombudsman resolution, it was established that there was no bad faith, no conspiracy, and that all the goods were delivered. There was no overprice either,” Leonardia said in a text message to the INQUIRER.

In its resolution, the Sandiganbayan cited the filing of the email complaint against Leonardia and his co-accused on Oct. 14, 2008 until the approval of the Ombudsman resolution on Dec. 13, 2016 or a period of eight years and two months.

The anti-graft court junked the assertion of prosecutors that the motions for extension to file counter-affidavits by the accused contributed to the delay. It pointed out that the last counter-affidavit was filed on Dec. 16, 2013 or three years before the Ombudsman issued its resolution on the case.

The resolution was penned by Associate Justice Alex Quiroz (chairperson) and concurred with by Associate Justices Reynaldo Cruz and Bayani Jacinto.

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In its Dec. 13, 2016 resolution, the Ombudsman indicted Leonardia and the other officials and employees for criminal liabilities.

It ordered the dismissal of Leonardia and the other officials from service after they were found guilty of violating procurement rules by awarding the contract to Comfac Corp.

The Ombudsman had said that the company was ineligible to bid for the contract because it was a distributor not a manufacturer of furniture.

Reversal

The Court of Appeals on Sept. 6, 2017 reversed the Ombudsman ruling on the administrative aspect of the case and ordered the reinstatement of all the officials and employees who have not retired or were separated from service and paid back wages of other benefits.

It, however, found two of the employees, Melvin Recabar (secretariat head) and Eduardo Ravena (technical working group member), guilty of simple misconduct for retaining the bidder’s bond of the supplier of the items and treating it as a performance bond.

They were meted the penalty of suspension for three months without pay.

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TAGS: delay, Evelio Leonardia, Graft, Ombudsman, Sandiganbayan
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