City Legal Officer Joselito Bayatan yesterday said they will file within this week a manifestation and motion for the early resolution of the criminal and administrative casesfiled by the Investigative Field Office of the Ombudsman against 13 Bacolod City officials and department heads involving the acquisition of a 7-hectare property in Brgy. Felisa, Bacolod for a solidwaste disposal facility, with the Commission on Audit Central Office.
Bayatan said the main issue of the COA regional office is the alleged overprice of the property. But according to the Ombudsman who dismissed the cases, the transaction was fair, the acquisition of the property had undergone proper assessment, and the property was really intended and suitable for its purpose.
They are glad that the cases were issued a final resolution by the Ombudsman that is favorable to the respondents. But under COA rules, this will be subject to automatic review by its central office, he said.
They hope that their appeal with the COA will be sustained by its central office, he added.
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 involving the acquisition of the 7-hectare property from the Dynasty Agricultural Corporation (DAC).
Bayatan said the case was earlier dismissed on Sept. 2009 on the basis that the property was fairly acquired, was done in good faith, and was properly assessed.
In other words, there was no overprice and the property is suitable for solid waste disposal facility. This was qualified by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and its price was below the zonal valuation.
This is a recycled case done in March 2007, which was dismissed by the Ombudsman in 2009. It was refiled and the issue of overprice was included. Perhaps the original complainants Sarah Esguera and Othello Ramos, were encouraged by the COA disallowance to refile it, Bayatan said.
City Assessor Maphilindo Polvora said he was the chairman of the City Appraisal Committee when the property was bought and their decision was the main basis why a case had been filed against them.
“The order of the Ombudsman is clear because the case was ruled and we won. However, it was refiled again. But it is a clear victory for all of us,” he said.
The case 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 lll 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.*
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