Another two cases dismissed.
The criminal and administrative cases involved an allegation that, way back in 2016, soon after the Leonardia administration returned to the Bacolod City Government, then executive assistant Eduardo Ravena solicited a 12 percent commission, commonly referred to as “SOP”, claiming that it was for himself and in behalf of Mayor Evelio Leonardia and City Legal Officer Joselito Bayatan, as a pre-condition for approving the payment claim of Penjan Construction and Supplies, a sole proprietorship of Catherine Gayondato.
The cases, docketed as OMB-V-C-18-0660 and OMB-V-A-18-0727 were, however, not filed by Gayondato, the proprietor of Penjan Construction and Supplies. It was filed by Edgar Cadagat, Antonio Wong, and Nemesio Demafelis, who presented themselves as sub-contractors of Gayondato in supplying the city government, then under the Puentevella administration, with 6,800 cubic meters of filling materials, worth P3.7 million.
“Right from the start, we found this case to be despicable. Complainants demanded that we perform illegal acts, and when we refused to do so, they twisted the facts and fabricated allegations in an attempt to discredit and get back at us,” Leonardia said.
“It was a conspiracy to escape the 2016 Comelec election ban and cover up what, apparently, was partly a case of ‘ghost delivery’ that they were trying to perpetrate,” Leonardia added.
“This was another clear case of dirty politicking where these well-known allies of that former Bacolod city mayor would not stop attempting to besmirch our reputations even while they themselves were trying to defraud the government,” Leonardia further said.
The criminal case alleged corrupt acts tantamount to bribery in violation of Sections 3 (b) and (f) of Republic Act No. 3019, or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, as amended, while the administrative case was for alleged grave misconduct.
Ombudsman Samuel Martires dismissed both the criminal and administrative complaints on January 7, 2020 upon the unanimous recommendation of officials of the Office of the Deputy Ombudsman for Visayas.
The recommending officials were Graft Investigation and Prosecution Officer III Maria Bernadeth Andal-Subaan, who penned the Joint Resolution, director Euphemia Bacalso, who headed the Preliminary Investigation, Administrative Adjudication and Prosecution Bureau-A, and deputy Ombudsman for Visayas Paul Elmer Clemente.
The Joint Resolution of the Ombudsman took note that complainants Cadagat, Wong, and Demafelis dismally failed to prove their allegation of the “SOP” solicitation made by Ravena, or that Leonardia delayed, without justification, the payment of Gayondato’s claim, that complainants pursued in her behalf as her sub-contractors, because he was allegedly waiting for their agreement to the “SOP” demanded by Ravena.
Respondents satisfactorily proved that the transaction was illegal and void from the start, that there were strong legal justifications for the refusal of Leonardia to pay the questionable claim, and that all the requirements in processing such a claim were undertaken in good faith by respondents.
Also, it was a “midnight” procurement of the Puentevella administration. It was both bid out and awarded to Gayondato on the very last working day before the start of the Comelec election ban in 2016.
Gayondato gave her conformity on the Purchase Order and made partial deliveries while the Comelec ban against such actions was still in effect.
The period of delivery on the Purchase Order was also altered from 7 days from acceptance to 45 days, without reasonable justification, and not in consonance with the 7-day delivery period as previously published in the Invitation to Bid.
The violation of the bidding rules under RA 9184 or Government Procurement Law and the banning period under the Omnibus Election Code both combined to void the Purchase Order awarded by former Mayor Puentevella to Gayondato, despite her having made partial deliveries on it later to the outgoing Puentevella administration, as the government cannot pay for void contracts.
Verification by the Accounting Office of delivery receipts submitted by complainants also showed that only 2,294.94 cubic meters were delivered by them against the order of 6,800 cubic meters. Thus, there was a shortage in delivery by 4,505.06 cubic meters, that, if paid, would have made Leonardia complicit in the payment for “ghost” deliveries, worth P2.5 million.
City accountant Ma. Corazon Cardel officially invoked Section 342 of the Local Government Code and Section 106 of Presidential Decree 1445 when she declined to recommend approval of the payment claim.
The Government Procurement Policy Board, in answer to an inquiry of Leonardia on the shortened bidding timeline, also supported the stand of respondents that, indeed, such further contraction of the shortest possible timeline allowed for this kind of procurement violated the rules on public bidding.
The complainants, however, were advised by Bayatan to file a petition for money claim with the Commission on Audit first, for the quantities they actually delivered as this was the only legal way for complainants to get paid by the city.
However, the complainants, instead, filed the cases with the Ombudsman.
Ravena stood his ground, denying he demanded an “SOP” when he informed complainants that their claim cannot be processed because of the violation of the bidding rules.
The complainants were unable to refute all these defenses so the Ombudsman dismissed all the criminal and administrative charges against Leonardia, et. al.
The Ombudsman ruled that, “In the absence of substantial evidence that respondents’ acts deviated from the regular course, the law presumes good faith on their part”. It added that, “After all, every public official is entitled to the presumption of good faith in the discharge of official duties. Absent any showing of bad faith and malice, there is likewise a presumption of regularity in the performance of official duties”.*