The Ombudsman has dismissed criminal charges against Bacolod Mayor Evelio Leonardia and two other city officials for malversation of funds in the procurement of gasoline.
Also cleared in the order signed by Ombudsman Samuel Martires on February 8, 2021 are Eduardo Ravena, then OIC-City Accountant, and Ricardo Dahildahil, then OIC-Management and Audit Services Office, a press release from the Bacolod City Public Information Office said on Wednesday, May 5.
The criminal charges docketed as OMB-V-C-16-0431 were for alleged malversation of public funds and violation of Section 3 (e) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act in the procurement of gasoline for the city government in 2007.
“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. Public service is no joke really. There are hazards to the job you just have to bear,” Leonardia said.
The criminal complaint was filed in October 2016 with the Office of the Deputy Ombudsman for the Visayas on the basis of allegations of private complainants Armando Collado and Christopher Villeta of Bacolod City.
The Ombudsman finally dismissed the criminal charges after resolving two separate Motions for Reconsideration (MRs) of Leonardia and Ravena against a previous finding of probable cause against them, the press release said.
Leonardia and Ravena successfully overturned such finding of probable cause by arguing that the petroleum products paid for way back in 2007 were constructively delivered to the City by way of constitutum possessorium, it added.
This is a form of delivery that made the gasoline stations concerned serve as temporary storage and safekeepers of the fuel stocks paid for and already owned by the city government. This system was resorted to because the City has no fuel depot to safely store the fuel supplies bought, and also for administrative efficiency, the press release said.
Leonardia also argued 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.
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 by the Ombudsman, while he and Ravena had to defend themselves further by filing their separate MRs, Leonardia said.
The e Ombudsman, in his order dismissing the charges, said that “ 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.”
The Ombudsman also ruled 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.
“In sum, 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”, the ombudsman said.*