The Office of the Ombudsman has dismissed criminal and administrative cases against Bacolod Rep. Evelio Leonardia and several city officials and employees filed when he was still mayor.
Dismissed last month were cases Omb-V-C-09-0082-C and Omb-V-A-09-0076-C that were filed by Sarah Teresa Esguerra and Othello Ramos, known allies of Mayor Monico Puentevella.
Cleared along with Leonardia were City Treasurer Annabelle Badajos, Teresita Guadalupe of the Office of the Building Official , City Accountant Eduardo Ravena, City Legal Officer Allan Zamora, Secretary to the Mayor Rogelio Balo and 18 other functionaries of their office.
The case stemmed from the temporary retention and use of the 20 percent share of the national government in the OBO collections to pay the honoraria of certain city officials and employees who were assisting the understaffed OBO Office.
The resolution penned by Graft Investigation and Prosecution Officer I Marie Fe Frances Seville-Ang and approved by Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales, said the “records are bereft of any evidence showing that respondents had acted with manifest partiality, evident bad faith or gross inexcusable negligence causing undue injury or unwarranted benefits under the prevailing circumstances.”
“Premises considered, let the (criminal) case be, as it is hereby, dismissed,” the resolution added. In like manner, the administrative case was also dismissed.
The complainants had claimed that, with intent to cause undue injury to the government, through evident bad faith, manifest partiality and gross inexcusable negligence, the respondents converted, reverted and malversed the 20 percent share of the national government in the OBO funds and used it to pay for the honoraria of some city officials and employees without legal basis.
This, they further claimed, contravenes Presidential Decree 1096 and the Auditing Code of the Philippines and constituted technical malversation.
They cited the same PD, which authorized the OBO to “retain not more than 20 per cent of the income/collection derived from permit fees and other charges for the operating expenses of his office.”
The Ombudsman decision, however, also said that the “complainants failed, at the very least, to allege the amount or quantify the injury sustained by them by virtue of the respondents’ alleged illegal act, as well as any showing that the same is unwarranted so as to qualify as undue injury.”
“Weight is also given to the fact that the respondents utilized the 20 percent share as honorarium and operating expenses of the OBO, considering that their quasi-judicial regulatory office is understaffed,” the Ombudsman also said.
Meanwhile, former City Legal Officer Joselito Bayatan said that this is a classic example of the politically-motivated and political harassment cases filed against Leonardia, who was also former Mayor of Bacolod, where the usual complainants, Esguerra and Ramos, distorted the interpretation of the law, and out of such distortion attempted to make a case against the former Mayor.
It took the Ombudsman to correct the misinterpretation of the law by the complainants, thus, the decision on the case was in favor of Leonardia, Bayatan said.*