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Ombudsman seeks reversal of CA ruling clearing mayor, other execs

ILOILO CITY—The Office of the Ombudsman has appealed a resolution of the Court of Appeals (CA) that absolved Bacolod City Mayor Evelio Leonardia and several other city officials and employees of graft in connection with alleged irregularities in the purchase of office equipment amounting to about P49 million.

In a 15-page motion for reconsideration dated Oct. 4, the Ombudsman’s legal affairs office asked the CA’s Former 18th Division in Cebu City to set aside its Sept. 6 decision.

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The decision reversed an Ombudsman resolution ordering the dismissal from service of Leonardia and eight other city officials and employees for the purchase of office equipment, furniture and fixtures for the New Bacolod City Government Center from supplier Comfac Corp.

The Ombudsman, in its appeal, said the Bacolod officials “prematurely filed” a motion for reconsideration at the CA because it did not file the same motion at the antigraft prosecuting body.

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It also maintained that the officials and employees violated the procurement procedure by awarding the contract to Comfac, which the Ombudsman considered as an ineligible bidder.

The CA, in its decision, said it was improper for the Ombudsman to have found the respondents (Leonardia and other officials and employees) guilty of grave misconduct and gross neglect of duty because there was no proof of corruption or that they benefited from the transaction.

The Ombudsman said the appellate court misinterpreted the prospective application of abandonment of the “Condonation Doctrine” in absolving Leonardia of administrative liabilities.

The legal doctrine (also called “Aguinaldo Doctrine”) extinguishes administrative cases filed against any public official during the official’s previous term immediately after the official’s reelection.

The Supreme Court in November 2015 ruled to abandon the doctrine that was first introduced in a high court ruling in 1959. But the high court said then that its ruling was prospective.

“The abandonment of the Condonation Doctrine should be prospectively applied right away so that the ill-effects of the (doctrine) should be immediately obviated,” according to the Ombudsman appeal.

It said that the ruling of the Supreme Court should be applied to “pending or open” cases.

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“The unwarranted extension of the Condonation Doctrine would set a dangerous precedent as it would provide erring local elective officials with blanket immunity that would spawn and breed abuse in the bureaucracy,” the Ombudsman said.

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TAGS: anomalous purchase of office equipment, Evelio Leonardia, graft case, Office of the Ombudsman
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