Leonardia counsel: ‘An answered prayer’

The counsel of Mayor Evelio Leonardia said the dismissal of the administrative and criminal cases against his client on the alleged anomalous procurement of PHP49-million worth of furniture and fixtures was both a vindication and an answered prayer.

“The mayor can now move on with his daily tasks without being distracted by these cases,” lawyer Joselito Bayatan said in a press statement.

As of yesterday, Leonardia had yet to issue his own statement on the latest development where he was cleared by the Sandigabayan.

On Tuesday, the Sandiganbayan announced the junking of the graft case filed against Leonardia and eight others due to too much delay in the pursuit of the case.

The three-page resolution released on Jan. 26 and written by Sandiganbayan 4th Division Chairman, Associate Justice Alex Quiroz, ruled in favor of Leonardia’s motion to dismiss after the Office of the Ombudsman took more than eight years to act from the time the complaint was received until approval of the joint resolution.

Associate Justices Reynaldo Cruz and Bayani Jacinto concurred with the ruling.

Also cleared were Leonardia’s co-accused -former secretary to the mayor and Bids and Awards Committee chairperson Goldwyn Nifras, city budget officer Luzviminda Treyes, 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.

All 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.”

Moreover, Bayatan said, “The criminal case was dismissed in consideration of the constitutional right of innocence. The ground of inordinate delay encompassed such right.”

“The dismissal, however, mentioned the issue of prejudicial question in connection with the earlier decision of the Court of Appeals also dismissing the administrative complaint in that the merits in the administrative case may be considered by the Sandiganbayan,” he added.

Last November, the Court of Appeals dismissed the administrative case of Leonardia and his co-respondents for the same case.

The appellate court in Cebu City sustained its original decision exonerating Leonardia and his co-respondents of the administrative charges filed against them for the alleged anomalous procurement of furniture and fixtures for the Bacolod City Government Center in 2008.* (PNA)


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