Ombudsman’s delay blamed for Sandiganbayan’s junking of P49-M case vs. Bacolod Mayor
Because of too much delay in the pursuit of the case, the Sandiganbayan has junked the graft case filed against Bacolod City Mayor Evelio “Bing” Leonardia and eight others in connection with the alleged anomalous procurement of P49-million worth of furniture and fixtures.
In a three-page resolution released on Jan. 26 and written by Sandiganbayan Fourth Division Chairman Associate Justice Alex Quiroz, the anti-graft court decided in favor of Leonardia’s motion to dismiss after the Office of the Ombudsman took more than eight years from the time the complaint was received by the local chief executive until the Ombudsman’s approval of the case’s joint resolution.
Concurring with the ruling were Associate Justices Reynaldo Cruz and Bayani Jacinto.
The anti-graft court also junked the case against Leonardia’s co-accused, namely: former secretary to the mayor and Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) chairperson Goldwyn Nifras, city budget officer Luzviminda Treyes, department of public services head Nelson Sedillo Sr., city engineer Belly Aguillon, city accountant Eduardo Ravena, assistant department head Aladino Agbones, Architect Jaries Ebenizer Encabo, and assistant general services officer Melvin Recabar.
The Sandiganbayan also ordered the lifting of their respective hold departure orders.
All the nine respondents were charged with one count each for violation of Section 3(e) of Republic Act No. 3019, or the “Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act”.
The anti-graft body said the public officials awarded the fully-paid contract to Comfac Corporation (Comfac) despite the company’s non-compliance with eligibility requirements stated under the law and instruction to bidders in 2008.
The public officials also irregularly converted the contract’s bid security of one percent to a higher performance security rate of five percent.
The Ombudsman also questioned Leonardia and his co-accused for allowing the payment of P57,600 worth of liquidated damages when it should have been P14.1 million due to Comfac’s late deliveries.
The delivery of the furniture and fixtures for the city’s new National Government Center were finished about one year and eight months behind the agreed date of delivery.
Citing the Supreme Court (SC) ruling in the case of “Torres vs. Sandiganbayan”, the anti-graft court said the SC ruled that a total delay of five years and five months in the conduct of both the fact-finding investigation and preliminary investigation would already constitute inordinate delay.
The anti-graft court did not give credence to the arguments of the Ombudsman that the delay was caused by the extended time given by the Ombudsman for the respondents to file their respective counter-affidavits.
“The court sustains the claim of the accused that the proceeding before the Office of the Ombudsman as to their case, spanning a period of eight years and two months, reckoned from the filing of the email complaint on October 14, 2008 until the approval by the Honorable Ombudsman on December 13, 2016 of the Joint Resolution dated December 2, 2016, violated the constitutional guarantee against inordinate delay,” the anti-graft said in its ruling.* (Perfecto Raymundo, Jr. /PNA)