CAGAYAN de Oro City Mayor Oscar Moreno is set to file a motion for reconsideration before the Office of the Ombudsman next week, calling the dismissal order against him as "political persecution."
On Thursday, June 8, the Ombudsman ordered the dismissal of Moreno from service, owing to the multiple charges of graft filed against him and seven others, for the lease of heavy equipment without conducting public bidding, when he was still governor of the province.
In a press conference Friday, June 9, Moreno said there was no need for a public bidding.
He said when he won as governor in Misamis Oriental last 2004, one of the biggest problems he inherited is the lack of heavy equipment for infrastructure projects, particularly, the construction of roads.
To address the immediate need, Moreno said his solution was to lease heavy equipment, under a "negotiated purchase mode," and get on with the road projects immediately.
Moreno accused incumbent Misamis Oriental Governor Yevgeny Vincente Emano as the one who started the issue.
"He did this despite the absence of any adverse finding on the rental expenses in the Annual Audit Reports of the province. Thus, it came to pass that a special audit team was constituted, and then a special audit was conducted on the rental expenses for the second time," Moreno said in his executive summary released on Friday.
"Bambi (Emano) was bitter because his father lost to me then," rued Moreno.
The mayor said the special audit team was quick in concluding that there was absence of public bidding, that the procurement was rigged or simulated, and the contract has incomplete documents.
Moreno said he was not invited for an exit conference, where he could supposedly defend his side neither, did they give him reasonable opportunity to submit management reply to the audit observation.
The audit findings then eventually ripened into notice of suspension (NS) and notice of disallowance (ND).
But Moreno's team was quick to assail on the NS and ND in an appeal memorandum before the COA-Northern Mindanao, to which, the regional office answered in favor of the mayor, saying "it is incontrovertible fact that services have been rendered, services of equipment not found exceeding the prevailing rental rates, benefits enjoyed by the public, and the accomplishments duly recognized and cited."
Moreno also appealed to the COA Commission Proper, where his petition for review is pending there until now.
"This is why the Ombudsman's decision is premature because my appeal before the COA Commission is still pending," he said.
Moreno said he also suspects that the rental case is "cherry-picked" to avoid the defense of condemnation, which is available to him since his re-election as governor precedes the questioned transactions.
The period covered in the disbursement of the heavy equipment is from 2011 to 2012, and Moreno was elected mayor of Cagayan de Oro in 2013.
In his motion for reconsideration, Moreno will use the pendency of his appeal before the COA, which will make the action of the Ombudsman premature.
Second, Moreno will argue that the Ombudsman's action is violation of the rule against forum shopping, because while the appeal is pending, the Ombudsman still opted to institute another action against the mayor, involving the same issue.
Third, the findings made by COA-Northern Mindanao's decision negates the allegations of the Ombudsman, he said, and fourth, Moreno will use the Arias doctrine, which entails that Moreno, as head of the procuring entity is at the tail-end of the procurement process, and that when he approved and signed the documents, "this won't mean he acted to conspire."
Lastly, the mayor will also use as his defense, the COA-Regional Office's "recognition and citation" for Moreno's "best practices," as accorded by the Australian Aid to the initiatives of the province then, in the development of road networks.
Emano, for his part, said Moreno should ask his "teammates in the City Hall" and political party as likely behind the Ombudsman's dismissal order.
"It's funny. It's been four years and the issue only came up now. I don't know about the issue. Ambot unsa iya nakaon nga sige naman lang nag pasumangil (I don't know what has gotten into him for the accusation)," he said.
"I think, as good citizens, we should follow what is being ordered by the Ombudsman. But then again, we have the right to defend ourselves. Dili na nato kinahanglan nga ipahid pa ngadto sa lain ang atong salaud nga nahimo ato na lamang kining tubagon ug atubangon (We should face the consequence of our offense),” he added.
The Ombudsman found voluminous case records that showed the officials "approved and facilitated the payment of P1,414,179.40 for the lease of fuel tankers, trailer trucks, and vibratory road roller on various dates in 2007, and from 2011 and 2012."
The officials, according to the Ombudsman, did not conduct public bidding for any of the lease contracts, and instead, resorted to the alternative method of Shopping.
Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales said Moreno and members of the Bids and Committee Awards then Patirick Gabutina, Elsie Lopoy, Rolando Pacuribot, Divina Bade, Cancio Guibone, Leemar Tinagan, and Elmer Wabe are charged with 6 counts of violation of Section 3 of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act or Republic Act 3019.
The Ombudsman found him, along with the others, guilty of grave misconduct, serious dishonesty, and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service.
Published in the SunStar Cagayan de Oro newspaper on June 10, 2017.