THE Office of the Ombudsman has found probable cause for the filing of 16 more graft charges against Mayor Oscar Moreno in connection with the disallowed capitol lease of heavy equipment contracts from 2007 to 2012 when he was governor.
The ombudsman also held Moreno guilty of grave misconduct, serious dishonesty, conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service and falsification of public documents.
He was ordered dismissed from the service and meted the accessory penalties of perpetual disqualification from holding public office, forfeiture of retirement benefits, cancellation of eligibility, and bar from taking civil service examination.
Moreno’s co-accused were also found administratively liable and ordered dismissed from the service carrying the same accessory penalties.
In the event that the dismissal can no longer be enforced due to separation from service, the ombudsman said the penalty should be converted into a fine in an amount equivalent to their one-year salary.
The ombudsman ordered the Department of Interior and Local Government to implement the dismissal order.
The Commission on Audit’s Notice of Disallowances for the anomalous contracts had already become final and executory in January 2015, the ombudsman noted.
The ombudsman’s announcement posted on its website yesterday came a day after the Court of Appeals issued a writ of preliminary injunction, preventing the implementation of a previous dismissal and disqualification order against Moreno, et al.
In 16 separate resolutions approved in August 2017, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales ordered the filing before the Sandiganbayan of 18 counts of violation of Section 3(e) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act (Republic Act no. 3019) against Moreno.
Included as Moreno’s co-accused are ex-provincial accountant Divina Bade (16 counts) and Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) members, namely: ex-provincial legal officer Cancio Guibone (one count), ex-provincial budget officer Elmer Wabe (17 counts), ex-provincial administrator Patrick Gabutina (16 counts), ex-assistant provincial engineer Rolando Pacuribot (18 counts), ex-provincial agriculturist Danilo Maputol (two counts), ex-provincial general services officer Elsie Lopoy (five counts) and administrative aide Leemar Tinagan (three counts).
Additional charges of Falsification of Public Documents were also ordered to be filed against Moreno (one count), Wabe (four counts), Gabutina (four counts), Pacuribot (four counts), Lopoy (four counts), Maputol (two counts) and Tinagan (one count).
The COA Special Audit Report on equipment rental of the provincial government of Misamis Oriental for 2007 to 2012 “revealed that the road maintenance program of the province received the biggest share of the non-office projects and that the expenses for rental equipment is the third biggest expenditure under maintenance and other operating expenses. The COA also stated that the disbursements for equipment rental were irregular, with transactions amounting to P20,500,000.00 considered as fictitious as suppliers denied participation in the bidding process.”
The ombudsman said the respondents did not conduct any public bidding for the multi-million peso lease deals and simply resorted to the alternative method of “shopping” to rent tankers and road rollers while an excavator was procured through negotiated procurement.
Accordingly, several Notices of Disallowance were issued by the COA after finding that the “bidding for the rental was simulated or rigged.”
The Ombudsman stated that the under the Government Procurement Reform Act, “shopping” may be used for the procurement of ordinary or regular office supplies or equipment. It also faulted respondents for availing of negotiated procurement for the excavator finding that “there is not even a single document that invoked the existence of an emergency situation.”
The Ombudsman also found out that the rental of the excavator was already being carried out on a monthly basis without showing that the BAC was convened for the purpose of procuring services or goods to address the alleged emergency situation.
Representatives from alleged contractors Equiprent, Geo Transport and Golden Richfield denied “any transaction for equipment rental with the provincial government.”
As regards the falsification charges, the ombudsman said, “Wabe, Gabutina, Pacuribot and Lopoy should be held liable for making it appear in the Abstract of Canvass Form that [the contractors] participated in the bidding, when it truth, they did not.”