The Office of the Ombudsman in the Visayas dismissed the criminal and administrative charges filed against 13 Bacolod City officials and department heads involving the alleged illegal purchase by the City of Bacolod of a 7-hectare property owned by the Dynasty Agricultural Corporation (DAC) in Brgy. Felisa, Bacolod City for solid waste disposal facility.
Bacolod Rep. Greg Gasataya said that, according to the Ombudsman, there is propriety and reasonableness in the purchase of the property to be used for a sanitary landfill. This means that proper procedure was followed and also because the case, that had been refiled, had already been dismissed in 2010.
The case was filed by the Investigative Field Office (IFO) against Bacolod Mayor Evelio Leonardia, executive assistant Eduardo Ravena, City Agriculturist Goldwyn Nifras, former councilor and now Bacolod Rep. Greg Gasataya, City Assessor Maphilindo Polvora, former City Engineer Teresita Guadalupe, Noel Impresso of the City Engineer’s Office (CEO), former City Treasurer Annabelle Badajos, Environment and Natural Resources Office head Max Silo, City Treasurer Ricardo Dahil-Dahil, City Planning and Development coordinator Lemuel Reynaldo and Department of Public Services assistant department head Efren Canlas.
A similar criminal case for violation of Section 3(e) of R.A. 3019 and on administrative case for grave misconduct and act prejudicial to public interest, were earlier filed against present and former city officials and the owner of the property by Sarah Esguerra and Othelo Ramos, who claimed that the rate of the 7-hectare property is exorbitant. But the criminal complaint was dismissed by the Ombudsman on Sept. 14, 2009 after finding no probable cause to indict the respondents of violation of Section 3(e) of R.A. 3019.
The motion for reconsideration filed by the complainants on the criminal case was also dismissed by the Ombudsman on Nov. 19, 2009 after finding no reason to reverse its Sept. 14, 2009 Resolution.
The Office also dismissed the administrative complaint in its Sept. 10, 2009 decision exonerating respondents from any administrative liability.
In a 15-page joint resolution penned by Graft Investigation and Prosecution Officer III Katherine Genovesa-Mailawan and approved by Ombudsman Samuel Martirez, the court said that the Sept. 14, 2009 Resolution and Sept. 10, 2009 decision, which were adjudged on the merits, had already been final and executory. Hence, the present complaint is barred from res judicata (a thing judicially acted or decided) as to respondents Leonardia, Nifras, Polvora, Gasataya, Badajos, and Guadalupe.
Since the propriety of the selection and the reasonableness of the purchase price of the DAC property were already established, it follows that respondent Cerna, Impresso, Canlas, Silo and Reynaldo who were part of the Bacolod Clean and Green Action Team, respondent Ravena who certified the DV and Dahil-Dahil, who pre-audited the disbursement of the P20 million, cannot be indicted of the crime charged nor can they be held administratively liable, it said.
The allegation of the complainants that the City of Bacolod suffered damages amounting to P10,933,200 (7-hectares at P340 per square meter), the difference between the DAC property and the Moya property being offered at P12,866,800 (160,835 square meters at P80 per square meters), is not supported by evidence, the court said.
The allegation that the property was bought at an exorbitant and excessive price and beyond the prevailing and proper price limit, is unfounded and misleading, it added.
Gasataya said he is very happy with the development since they were vindicated and this is a very wonderful birthday gift for him. From the start they believed that the purchase of the property followed proper procedure.
The decision of the court in dismissing the cases against them shows that there was nothing illegal in the purchase of the property since proper procedure was observed, he said.
Gasataya said he was a councilor when the case was filed in 2009 and that he was chair of the Clean and Green Coordinating Task Force created by Mayor Evelio Leonardia at that time to assess all offers for sanitary landfill, and to find a solution to the landfill problem at that time since the Department of Environment and Natural Resources wanted the city to close the old dumpsite.*
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