THE Court of Appeals (CA) 22nd Division on Thursday denied City Mayor Oscar Moreno's prayer for writ of preliminary injunction but came up with another resolution.
In a decision released Thursday afternoon, October 6, the CA affirmed the Office of the Ombudsman's decision saying that the lease contract arose from a project not specified in the appropriations ordinance, meaning, the lease contract was not a subsisting obligation.
Rather, it created a new obligation for the City Government and thus requires prior authorization by the City Council.
The Ombudsman had found Moreno, City Budget Officer Percy Salazar, and City Accountant Beda Joy Elot guilty of simple misconduct.
The three officials were given a three-month suspension for allegedly spending P175,000 to lease a house in 2013, a contract that was entered into by the City Government without the proper authorization from the City Council.
The three sought relief from the CA but the Appellate Court said the Ombudsman "did not abuse its discretion in finding Mayor Moreno liable for simple misconduct for failing to observe section 22 of the Local Government Code, and Elot and Saazar, in obligating and disbursing local government funds without an ordinance or resolution appropriating funds for the lease of contract."
However, the CA said the Department of Interior and Local Government cannot enforce the suspension order on re-elected mayor Moreno, but only on appointed public officers namely, Elot and Salazar.
"Elot's and Salazar's positions as city accountant and city budget officer, respectively, are permanent. Without a fixed term, and nowhere in the records is it shown that they are no longer holding their respective offices. Their suspension, therefore, remains legally feasible," the resolution said.
Moreno's penalty, on the other hand, is ruled by Section 66 (b) of the Local Government Code which states that "the penalty suspension shall not exceed the unexpired term of the respondent or a period of 6 months for every administrative offense, nor shall the said penalty be a bar to the candidacy of the respondent so suspended as long as he meets the qualifications required for the office."
The local code adds that if at the time the penalty is imposed when the respondent's term is about to end, the suspension will cover only his unexpired term.
"The reason is obvious, a local elective official has a fixed term of office. Once the term expires, the person ceases to be connected with an official position, for which reason he can no longer be suspended from it," the provision stated.
The CA said Moreno can instead be fined an amount equivalent to his salary for 3 months, which will be imposed, according to the Ombudsman, in the event that the penalty of suspension could no longer be enforced.
Moreno, for his part, said he is hurt that Salazar and Elot are being penalized for something they did not take part of.
"Ang kapait ani kay sila Atty. Salazar ug Atty. Elot, ma-suspend sila for that lease contract nga dili man sila signatory ana, ang trabaho ni Atty. Salazar was to make sure that the budget was in place and si Atty. Elot, to make sure nga naay budget, but they are now being suspended of the lease contract. Sakit lang, kay collateral damage, luoy pud," Moreno said.
But Moreno said he has no regrets with the city's boxing program that got him into trouble saying he only did what he had to do as the mayor.
Meanwhile, Moreno said Elot and Salazar are planning to file a motion for reconsideration.
"I will not stop them from doing that, nga muingon ko nga muhunong na ug fight because I am in a fine situation now, no. I will even join them in their plans for this legal battle," Moreno said.