By NITZ ARANCON
with JOEY NACALABAN
MAYOR Oscar Moreno yesterday hailed the decision of the Court Appeals that trashed 24 administrative cases against him even as he called it a “sweet vindication.”
The 12th division of the appellate court ruled to reverse the Office of the Ombudsman’s decision that slapped Moreno and other officials with a dismissal and disqualification from public office orders for for serious dishonesty, grave misconduct, and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of public service. The CA said the ombudsman also failed to present sufficient evidence against the officials.
Moreno and two of those accused, city engineer Rolando Pacuribot and Elsie Lopoy, were nearly in tears as they faced reporters during a news conference at city hall yesterday.
Moreno said the appellate court’s decision was very important to him and the other officials.
“Pasalamat ako niini, beyond words,” Moreno told reporters. “Nothing is greater… perhaps, nothing is sweeter than being vindicated.”
He called the lawsuit “extreme” and “designed,” and the accusations “pre-meditated.”
The 24 administrative cases were about the capitol’s controversial rental of heavy equipment without public bidding when Moreno was governor.
The CA ruling, signed last month, also cleared former capitol officials Elmer Wabe, Leemar Tinagan, Divina Bade and Patrick Gabutina, all of whom served in the provincial government’s bids and awards committee when Moreno was governor.
Moreno said, “Here we are, with this decision of the Court of Appeals, we are doubly inspired, and doubly committed. This is very, very timely especially as we are about to begin with our third and final term.”
The cases were used as an election issue against Moreno in this year’s elections. Despite that, he won a second reelection as mayor in the May elections; Moreno would serve his final office term less than a month from now.
Moreno was thankful to his legal team headed by lawyer Dale Bryan Mordeno for the legal victory.
Atty. Mordeno said he was also in high spirits as a result of the CA decision.
“Nothing compares to the feeling of being the lawyer who represented him in these cases. There is a feeling of relief and unloading of burden kay isip iyang abogado, dili gyud malikayan nga kining mga kaso nga ingon ani, morag nay tunok imong dughan ba kay simbako unsay dangtan, ug dili lang ta gusto nga ma-hamper ang panerbisyo ni Mayor Moreno sa atong syudad,” Mordeno said.
He said he would use the CA ruling in order to convince the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan to also dismiss the remaining 22 criminal cases against Moreno and the other officials in connection with the capitol’s heavy equipment rentals.
Mordeno said the CA decision would have a “persuasive effect” as far as the criminal cases are concerned, pointing out that the appellate court’s ruling was based on the merits and not on mere technicalities.
“Maayo kaayo ang decision kay nag-touch gyud siya sa evidence. Kadtong mi-ingon ang ombudsman nga guilty ang atong mayor sa serious dishonesty, grave misconduct, mi-ingon ang Court of Appeals nga there is no substantial evidence,” he said.
City engineer Pacuribot said the administrative cases affected and gave him sleepless nights.
“Daghang gabi-e nga ako nang gibalon sa akong pagkatulog. At least karon, makatulog nako nga maghagok,” said Pacuribot, pointing out that what were at stake were his 36 years in government service and his retirement benefits.
Lopoy, the capitol’s former general services officer and now Barangay Lapasan councilor, said the cases hurt her reputation, and caused her so much stress.
“Salamat sa Dios kay karon makatulog na gyud ko nga magdamgo! Dili sama sa una nga ma-oy akong matulgan ug mamat-an ang maong kaso,” Lopoy said.