The Office of the Ombudsman has dismissed the charges for technical malversation and misconduct against Bacolod Mayor Evelio Leonardia, Vice Mayor Jude Thaddeus Sayson, and 12 other city officials, for lack of probable cause and lack of substantial evidence.
The criminal and administrative complaints were filed by Rufino Alcala and Carlos Montaño, barangay captains of Punta-Taytay and Tangub, respectively, against Leonardia, Sayson, councilors Homer Bais, Al Victor Espino, Catalino Alisbo, Roberto Rojas, former councilors Greg Gasataya, Jocelle Batapa-Sigue, Napoleon Cordova, Alex Paglumotan and Reynold Iledan, City Administrator Rogelio Balo; City Treasurer Annabelle Badajos; and City Budget Officer Luzviminda Treyes.
In their complaints, Alcala and Montaño alleged that the officials juggled, malversed and misappropriated the public funds of P4 million by taking it from the balance of the appropriation for Personnel Benefits in 2007 Annual Budget of the City of Bacolod and giving it as financial assistance to the Silver MassKara Festival Organization Inc.
Alcala, who was a recipient of the funds, and Montaño are both known to be loyalists of former Bacolod Rep. Monico Puentevella, whom Leonardia had defeated in the 2010 election for mayor.
In its decision dismissing the criminal charge of technical malversation, or illegal use of public funds, and the administrative complaint of misconduct, the Ombudsman stated that “…it is clear that while the general rule is that no supplemental budget may be enacted, this rule however admits an exception if there are funds actually available as certified by the local treasurer or supported by new revenue sources.”
It said the respondents had sufficiently shown that there were funds actually available in the form of balance from the personnel benefit fund in the total amount of P40 million earmarked for the salary increase, which the city anticipated would commence on January 1, 2007, but came into effect on July 1, resulting in a surplus of P24.6 million.
The decision also said that the balance of P24.6 million can be considered as savings…and the amount is free of any obligation or encumbrance. The remaining balance was the source of the P4 million to the SMFOI and its disbursement was covered by Appropriation Ordinance No. 16, series of 2007, it noted.
In the absence of any evidence that the ordinance was declared invalid, it is presumed that the same is regular and hence, is a valid basis for the subject disbursement, the Ombudsman resolution said.
It also emphasized that the allegation that the respondents violated Article 336 of RA 7160 since the use of the savings under Personnel Benefit Fund does not belong to the same class of expense as a donations account, is of no moment.
The situation is governed by Article 321 of RA 7160, that allows the passing of an ordinance providing for a supplemental budget when supported by funds actually available as certified by the local treasurer.
It also pointed out that the evidence does not support the charge of the violation of Section 3 (g) of Republic Act No. 3019, as amended. The financial assistance to the SMFO Inc. was for a public purpose.
“The financial assistance was expended by the participants, that included the city barangays and schools, for public activities that redounded to the financial and cultural upliftment of the residents of the City of Bacolod,” it added.
It also said that the respondents refuted the allegations and the charge for Illegal use of public funds against them and they had not violated any rule of law or standard of behavior in their granting of financial assistance to SMFO Inc., so “the charge for misconduct against them must fail.”
The recent rulings have added to the string of favorable decisions obtained by Leonardia, Sayson et al, from the Ombudsman, buttressing their claim that the tons of complaints filed with the Ombudsman against them were basically political harassments.
Leonardia said “I find vindication anew in these two recent decisions of the Ombudsman that unmasked once again the sinister motives behind the filing of tons of cases against me and my coworkers in the city government.”
He said those filing the cases are using the Ombudsman for their black propaganda purposes, so clearly that by now, the public must already have comprehended the real reason why so many cases were filed against them.
The two decisions were penned by Graft Investigation and Prosecution Officer Portia Pacquiao-Suson, reviewed by EIO Acting Director Samuel Malazarte, recommended for approval by Deputy Ombudsman for the Visayas Pelagio Apostol, and approved by Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales.*CGS