Another two cases down.
This time, 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% commission (commonly referred to as “SOP”), for himself and in behalf of City Mayor Evelio Leonardia and city legal officer Atty. 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 Catherine Gayondato, the proprietor of Penjan Construction and Supplies. Instead, 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 in a press release from City Hall 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.
Leonardia further commented that, “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 are trying to defraud the government.”
The criminal case alleged corrupt acts tantamount to bribery in violation of Sections 3 (b) and (f) of R.A. No. 3019 (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 last January 7, 2020 upon the unanimous recommendation of officials of the Office of the Deputy Ombudsman for Visayas.
These 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, which complainants pursued in her behalf as her sub-contractors, because he was allegedly waiting for their agreement to the “SOP” demanded by Ravena.
On the other hand, 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.
Firstly, 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, and was made possible only because the shortest bidding timeline required for it of 20 days was further cut illegally by another 4 days to beat the start of the said COMELEC ban.
Secondly, 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. This, therefore, was not in consonance with the 7-day delivery period as previously published in the Invitation to Bid.
Accordingly, the violation of the bidding rules under R.A. 9184 (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. The government cannot pay on void contracts.
Thirdly, 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, which, if paid, would have made Leonardia complicit in the payment for “ghost” deliveries worth P2.5 million.
Thus, city accountant Ma. Corazon Cardel officially invoked Section 342 of the Local Government Code and Section 106 of PD 1445 when she declined to recommend approval of the payment claim.
The Government Procurement Policy Board (GPPB), 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.
In fairness to complainants, however, they were advised by respondent city legal officer Bayatan to file a petition for money claim with the Commission on Audit (COA) first, in so far as the quantities they actually delivered were concerned, under the legal principle of quantum meruit, and if COA sees merit in their petition and orders the city to pay them for actual deliveries made, then the city will comply with the order of the COA. This, as emphasized by respondent Bayatan, was the only legal way for complainants to get paid by the city.
However, the well-meant advice of respondent Bayatan was ignored; and complainants, instead, filed subject cases with the Ombudsman, which exposed their hidden malicious political agenda.
For his part, respondent Ravena stood his ground in denying he ever demanded for the alleged “SOP” when he informed complainants that their claim cannot be processed because of the violation of the bidding rules when the bidding timeline was deliberately shortened to make possible the “midnight” procurement of filling materials that was awarded to Gayondato.
With all these defenses, which complainants were unable to refute, and the lack of substantial evidence from them to back up their own allegations, the Ombudsman dismissed all the criminal and administrative charges against Leonardia, et. al.
In conclusion, 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.”
The Ombudsman further 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.”*/CITY PIO