By NITZ ARANCON
IT only took a three-page Court of Appeals resolution yesterday to end the raging debate on whether or not the interior department’s service of a dismissal order against Mayor Oscar Moreno on Monday was legally flawed.
Moreno said he would report back to work at city hall today, two days after staying away from his office, following the CA verdict that the 24th graft case against him is covered by its November 2017 writ of preliminary injunction.
He said the CA resolution simply meant that the service of the dismissal order by the interior department was invalid.
Signing the resolution were Associate Justices Perpetua Atal-Paño, Walter Ong and Edgardo Camello of the CA’s 22nd Division in Mindanao.
The Office of the Ombudsman’s ruling on the 24th case for grave misconduct, serious dishonesty and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service slapped Moreno with a dismissal and disqualification order. On Monday afternoon, the Department of Interior and Local Government served the ombudsman’s order.
Moreno said the CA’s resolution meant that the DILG service of the dismissal order was flawed because it stemmed from a case that is “under the umbrella” of the November 2017 writ of preliminary injunction.
The writ was issued by the CA last year based on the motion of the mayor’s lawyer, Bryan Dale Mordeno, who argued that the ombudsman’s string of dismissal and disqualification orders against Moreno were based on cases that were redundant.
On many occasions, the ombudsman found Moreno guilty of causing the capitol lease of heavy equipment without public bidding when he was Misamis Oriental’s governor. Each ombudsman ruling carried an administrative penalty of dismissal and perpetual disqualification from the government.
The now consolidated cases are on appeal and until the court resolves it or until the November 2017 writ is lifted, Moreno would remain immune from the ombudsman’s orders pertaining to the consolidated cases.
Mordeno said he received the latest CA resolution yesterday afternoon. Hours before that, he called the DILG move to serve the ombudsman’s order against Moreno “premature”, claiming that the interior department was aware that he had filed a petition.
He said when he received a copy of the document about two weeks ago, he immediately filed a “shotgun” petition for a temporary restraining order, writ of preliminary injunction with status quo ante just to make sure.
Mordeno maintained that the most recent ombudsman order cannot be served because it sprang from one of the 24 cases that were lumped together by the CA, and covered by the writ of preliminary injunction.
But the counter-argument against Mordeno’s position was that the recent ombudsman order came after the CA’s 2017 writ and therefore, it was not covered by it.
Hours before the CA resolution reached Mordeno, DILG regional director Arnel Abage said the ombudsman’s order was served on Monday as far as the DILG was concerned. On the basis of the rule on automatic succession, he said, Vice Mayor Raineir Joaquin Uy was supposed to assume as mayor.
But there was no attempt on Uy’s part to take over. After presiding over the session of the city council on Monday afternoon, Uy reportedly went out of town – on “official business”.
Agabe said the order was served at around 3:48 pm at the office of Atty. Mordeno in Barangay Camaman-an. He said copies of the order were also sent to Uy’s office for his “guidance”.
“As far as DILG is concerned, we did our job,” said Agabe, adding that it did not prevent Moreno from seeking “legal remedies”.
By 5 pm, the CA resolution effectively made the DILG service of the warrant invalid, said Mordeno.