THE Court of Appeals (CA) 18th Division in Cebu City reversed the Ombudsman’s decision dismissing Bacolod City Mayor Evelio Leonardia and six others for grave misconduct and gross neglect of duty in connection with the purchase of P49 million worth of furniture and fixtures in 2008.
The 16-page decision promulgated on September 6 by Executive Justice Gabriel Ingles with Associate Justices Germano Francisco Legaspi and Marilyn Lagura-Yap, stated in part, “…it was never claimed that the prices of the procured items were unreasonable. It is also undisputed that all the items subject of the P.O. [purchase order]were delivered. Besides, it was not proven by substantial evidence that petitioners’ alleged violation of the law was with willful intent. Thus, petitioners cannot be held liable for grave misconduct or gross neglect of duty.”
Cleared by the CA aside from Leonardia were Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) officials – chairman Goldwyn Nifras, vice chairperson Luzviminda Treyes, member Nelson Sedillo and Technical Working Group (TWG) members Belly Aguillon Aladino Agbones and Jaries Ebenizer Encabo.
They will be reinstated to their positions and are entitled to back wages and other benefits.
Two other respondents – BAC secretariat head Melvin Recabar and TWG member Eduardo Ravena – were found guilty of simple misconduct only. As such, their penalty was amended from dismissal to suspension for three months without pay.
After serving the three-month suspension, they will also be reinstated to their positions and entitled to back wages and other benefits starting from the time they have served the three-month suspension up to the time of their actual reinstatement.
The Ombudsman earlier ordered the filing of criminal charges against Leonardia and eight others for violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
Leonardia said it is clear that with or without the Aguinaldo Doctrine, he was exonerated on the merits of the case, adding that the issue does not involve dishonesty.
“This is just a matter of technicalities and procedures. There was no overprice, no under-delivery because all goods were all accounted for, there was no conspiracy, and there was no bad faith,” he added.