BY ADRIAN P. NEMES III
After more than a decade, the Office of the Ombudsman finally dismissed the criminal charges for malversation of funds and graft and corruption filed against Bacolod Mayor Evelio “Bing” Leonardia and two other former City officials.
The order, penned by Ombudsman Samuel Martires on February 8 this year, also acquitted Eduardo Ravena and Ricardo Dahildahil, former officers-in-charge of the City Accounting and the Management and Audit Services offices, respectively.
The criminal charges docketed as OMB-V-C-16-0431 were filed by private complainants Armando Collado and Christopher Villeta of Bacolod City over the city’s gasoline procurements in 2007.
The charges against the Leonardia, Ravena and Dahildahil were dismissed by the Ombudsman after the officials filed two separate Motions for Reconsideration (MRs) against a previous finding of probable cause of the Visayas Ombudsman.
In seeking for the MR, Leonardia and Ravena stressed that the petroleum products paid in 2007 were constructively delivered to the City by way of “Constitutum possessorium”.
It is a form of delivery that made the gasoline stations concerned serve as temporary storage and safe keepers of the fuel stocks paid for and already owned by the City Government.
The officials said that they did it that way, considering the fact that the City has no fuel depot to safely store the fuel supplies bought, and also for administrative efficiency.
Leonardia had said that the legal basis used in the previous finding of probable cause had no bearing on the case because such was meant to govern procurements solely from wholesalers of petroleum products, while the case at hand involved procuring from gasoline stations selling on retail – an entirely different milieu.
The mayor said it should be noted further that the heads of the end-user offices that actually withdrew and used the fuel stocks allocated for their operating needs, and who were his co-respondents in this case, were already earlier freed there from by the Ombudsman while he and Ravena had to defend themselves further by filing their separate MRs.
NO DAMAGE TO GOVERNMENT
In dismissing the case, Martires said, “Verily, the fact that the fuel paid for by the City were actually used for the purposes they were intended negates any finding that respondents Leonardia, Ravena and Dahildahil acted out of any furtive design or intent to cause damage to the government.”
He emphasized that there was no indication that Leonardia, Ravena, and Dahildahil acted with manifest partiality, evident bad faith, or gross inexcusable negligence in the process of procuring the fuel products.
The Ombudsman added that the records of the instant case are bereft of substantial evidence to establish that Respondents Leonardia, Ravena and Dahildahil committed the crimes charged against them.
“Once more, we thank God for vindicating us from this malicious complaint filed by people whom we know are close allies of our political opponents,” Leonardia said. He said that public service is no joke really and that there are hazards to the job that one needs to bear.*