The Office of the Ombudsman in the Visayas dismissed for lack of merit the criminal cases filed by Othelo Ramos and Sarah Teresa Esguerra in 2009 against former Mayor Evelio Leonardia and nine other city officials and employees involving the purchase of 1,000 armchairs for the Bacolod City College.
The court also negated the administrative case they filed against Leonardia, former vice mayor Jude Thaddeus Sayson, City Agriculturist Goldwyn Nifras, the late City Legal Office Allan Zamora, former City Planning and Development Officer Lemuel Reynaldo, former assistant General Services Officer Nelson Sedillo Sr., former city accountant Eduardo Ravena, former Management and Audit Services officer-in-charge Ricardo Dahildahil and former Bids and Awards head secretariat Melvin Recabar.
However, it found former city administrator and BCC acting administrative officer Rogelio Balo liable for simple neglect of duty for his failure to exercise due diligence in his computation of the actual increase of freshmen, which resulted in the ballooned figure of 252 percent of the correct percentage 35.9 percent only.
The Ombudsman said Balo's erroneous computation resulted to a surplus of armchairs for which he should be made administratively liable.
Ramos, and Esguerra, who is now an executive assistant of Mayor Monico Puentevella, filed the case on Jan. 5, 2009 accusing the respondent officials and employees of the Bacolod City Government of conspiring to give unwarranted benefits to respondent Nicandro Varca, general manager of Varseni Engineering & Industrial Supply, when they opted to procure 1,000 pieces of armchairs by negotiated procurement.
Leonardia, in his counter affidavit dated July 27, 2009, said he did not sign the purchase request prepared by Balo for the procurement of 1,000 pieces of armchairs because he was out of the country on official travel from June 20 to July 1, 2008.
He said it was Sayson, being the acting mayor, who signed the PR and it was the BAC that evaluated and analyzed the letter request of Balo, who approved the disbursement because everything seemed regular and the supporting documents showed that armchairs were already inspected and received by the officials concerned.
In his counter affidavit dated Dec. 22, 2009, Sayson, alleged that he was only included in the case because his signature appeared on the PR, and prayed for the dismissal of the complaint against him because the allegations of the complainants are devoid of any supporting evidence.
Balo stated in his counter-affidavit that the student population of BCC had substantially grown through the years and in 2008, about 1,056 freshmen enrolled. The sudden increase of the student population compelled him to inform the chairman of the BAC to procure additional chairs, he said.
The Ombudsman, in its order dated February 12, signed by Blesilda Quano, graft investigation and prosecution officer 1, and approved by Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales, said a perusal of the records show that the BAC substantially complied with the procedure.
It said the assailed disbursement was supported by Purchase Request No. 08970865 dated June 30, 2008; BAC Resolution No. N-466 series of 2008 dated July 17, 2008; request for quotation; abstract of bids and Purchase Order No. 0865-08 dated August 13, 2008.
The Ombudsman said there is no probable cause to prosecute the respondents for violation of Section 3(e) of Republic Act No. 3019, as amended.
It said there is no showing that the actions of the BAC members and the approving authority, in the performance of their duties, was motivated by bad faith, manifest partiality or gross inexcusable negligence. The BAC's resort to negotiated procurement of the armchairs was justified – to restore vital public service.
“There is likewise, no showing that the City Government of Bacolod suffered undue damage or injury as there was no dispute that the 1,000 armchairs were actually delivered. This Office cannot give weight to complainant's allegation that the armchairs were stored in a warehouse to rot, there being no substantial evidence to support such allegations,” the Ombudsman also said.*CGS
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