THE Office of the Ombudsman-Mindanao recommended the filing of charges against the former mayor of Quezon, Bukidnon who was accused of mishandling public funds.

Facing charges for violation of Section 3 e (Corrupt practices of public officers) of Republic Act Number 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act is former Quezon mayor Stewart G. Leonardo.

Graft Investigation and Prosecution Officer I Marianne Macayra, in a resolution dated January 15, found probable cause to charge Leonardo based on the complaints filed by Gregorio L. Gue and Noel Goopio.

In their complaint filed in January 14, 2011, Gue and Goopio said that Leonardo, who was authorized by the Quezon Municipal Council through resolution number 10th SB 2010-27 dated February 11, 2010 to procure several equipment for their municipality, "took advantage" of his position and also bid for his personal equipment when he allegedly joined the auction conducted by the United Auctioneers Inc. (UAI) back in May 2010 at Subic Freeport Zone in Olongapo in behalf of their municipality.

Both the complainants claimed that Leonardo also appropriated P100,000 for his personal benefit to the bid deposit paid by the local government unit (LGU) of Quezon, saying that based on the statement of account dated May 25, 2010 issued by the UAI, the total purchased price of the equipment for Quezon was supposed to be P6,287,500 but P6,387,500 was reflected in the purchase order dated June 30, 2010.

Gue and Goopio also said that the equipment was paid by the LGU of Quezon as reflected in UAI acknowledgement receipt 036575 dated June 3, 2010.

The complainants also filed charges to former municipal accountant Miraflor I. Divinasflores, saying she paid to cover the misappropriation of Leonardo in two installments composed of P70,000 on October 8, 2010 and P30,000 on October 18, 2010. But Macayra dismissed the case for insufficiency of evidence.

In a counter affidavit, Leonardo admitted that he had bid for his personal equipment alongside with the equipment for the LGU of Quezon and he was treated by the UAI as one and the same party, resulting in the purchase made without distinction. He also added that it was an "honest mistake."

Leonardo said that he knew that he had to return the P100,000 bid deposit and was allegedly accidentally deducted from his account wherein he eventually paid it with P70,000 "with an intention to off-set the balance with the amount he was supposed to be reimbursed" which was the advance payment for the toll fees, ferry charges, bills of lading and other incidental expenses that total to P30,000.

Leonardo also said that despite the follow-up for liquidation, he was compelled to pay the remaining balance and also averred that there is no proof that his personal properties were paid for by the LGU of Quezon because the purchase order and the journal entry order clearly provided that only the equipment approved by the SB Quezon were purchased.

"Although respondent Leonardo is no longer in government service at the time of filing of the complaint, the alleged violation was committed during his term and in relation to his office, as he was holding the position of municipal mayor. The Office has primary jurisdiction to investigate and prosecute criminal cases cognizable by the Sandiganbayan," the resolution read. (KGL)