By NITZ ARANCON
THE 12th Division of the Court of Appeals has dismissed 24 administrative cases filed against Mayor Oscar Moreno and a group of former capitol officials in connection with the heavy equipment rentals in Misamis Oriental when the local chief executive was the province’s governor.
Also off the hook are Elsie Lopoy, Engr. Rolando Pacuribot, Elmer Wabe, Leemar Tinagan, Divina Bade and Patrick Gabutina. They were key capitol officials who served in the provincial government’s bids and awards committee when Moreno was governor.
The 33-page decision of the appellate court, signed on May 15, 2019 by Associate Justices Victoria Isabel Paredes, Marlene Gonzales-Sison, and Maria Elisa Sempio Diy, said the Office of the Ombudsman failed to present sufficient evidence to prove that Moreno and his subordinates conspired to commit an offense.
The ombudsman had slapped Moreno and the former capitol officials with dismissal and disqualification from public service orders for serious dishonesty, grave misconduct, and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of public service because of the capitol rental of heavy equipment without public biddings.
Moreno’s group had questioned the ombudsman’s ruling and assailed it before the appellate court by filing a petition for certiorari.
The CA reversed and set aside the ombudsman’s decision in its May 15 order, a copy of which was shown to this paper yesterday.
“The existence of conspiracy cannot be presumed, it must be proven through clear and convincing evidence. The acts of the petitioners (Moreno, et al.) did not, in any way, tarnish the image and integrity of their respective office and thus, they cannot be found guilty of the offense,” reads part of the CA ruling.
There however remains 22 criminal cases filed by the ombudsman before the Sandiganbayan against Moreno and the other former capitol officials in connection with the heavy equipment rentals.
City hall spokesperson Maricel Rivera said the 22 criminal cases have been consolidated or lumped into one case. She said two similar criminal cases filed with another division of the Sandiganbayan have been dismissed earlier.
Rivera said Moreno is expected to discuss the latest court ruling in a news conference at city hall today.