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60-DAY TEMPORARY RESTRAINING ORDER ISSUED

Court of Appeals holds dismissal of Bacolod City mayor

ILOILO CITY—Bacolod City Mayor Evelio Leonardia will stay in his post after the Court of Appeals (CA) issued a 60-day temporary restraining order (TRO) against his dismissal.

In a six-page resolution promulgated on Jan. 20, the CA’s 18th Division barred the Department of the Interior and Local Government from enforcing the Ombudsman’s Dec. 2 joint resolution dismissing Leonardia and nine other city officials and employees for graft.

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The resolution was penned by Associate Justice Germano Francisco Legaspi and concurred with by Executive Justice Gabriel Ingles and Associate Justice Marilyn Lagura-Yap.

The case stemmed from the purchase of “property, plant and equipment, furniture and fixtures” for the New Bacolod City Government Center from Comfac Corp.

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The Ombudsman, in its joint resolution, said Leonardia and the other city officials and employees violated the procurement law and rules by showing bias and partiality to Comfac Corp., which got the contract.

The TRO takes effect after Leonardia files a P100,00 bond.

Leonardia said his lawyers filed the bond on Monday morning because they received a copy of the TRO late Friday afternoon.

“We are happy. The CA decided on the merits and saw the urgency [of the TRO],” Leonardia told the Inquirer on Sunday at the sidelines of the Dinagyang Festival here.

“We accept the TRO with gratitude—and a resolve to get to the bottom of these issues not just to clear our names, but to show our people and the future generations that the right and the good will always draw favor from justice,” he added in an e-mailed statement.

The mayor said his lawyers will argue the merits of the case in the “proper forum” but stressed his earlier statement that the case does not involve any overprice and conspiracy and that all the goods were delivered.

In granting the TRO, the appellate court supported Leonardia’s argument that the alleged administrative liabilities were covered by the condonation doctrine before this was set aside by the Supreme Court.

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The legal doctrine absolves an elective official of administrative liabilities once the official is re-elected.

In its resolution, the CA said the “abandonment of the condonation doctrine should not have a retroactive effect as to prejudice petitioner for the acts he committed when said doctrine was still recognized.”

“Petitioner’s reliance on the defense of condonation prior to its abandonment should be respected,” it said.

The CA said it was “more prudent … to preserve the status quo to avoid not only irreparable injury and damage but also complications that would arise if the (Ombudsman’s dismissal order) would be implemented.”

The Ombudsman had rejected Leonardia’s condonation defense, saying the case was covered by the Supreme Court’s decision setting aside the application of the doctrine.

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TAGS: Bacolod City, Court of Appeals, dismissal, Evelio Leonardia, mayor, restraining order
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