THE Court of Appeals (CA) Visayas Station 18th Division in Cebu City granted the application of Bacolod City Mayor Evelio Leonardia for writ of preliminary injunction against the dismissal order of the Office of the Ombudsman.
The four-page resolution dated March 22, 2017 was signed by Associate Justice Germano Francisco Legaspi and concurred by Executive Justices Gabriel Ingles and Marilyn Lagura-Yap.
Leonardia was initially granted a 60-day temporary restraining order by the CA 18th Division, which he sought after the Ombudsman ordered him and nine other respondents dismissed.
They were found guilty for grave misconduct and gross neglect of duty in the procurement of furniture and fixtures for the Bacolod Government Center worth almost P50 million in 2008.
With the preliminary injunction, the mayor has been ordered to post a bond of P100,000.
The resolution stated that “upon filing by petitioner of a bond of P100,000, let a writ of preliminary injunction issue enjoining respondents and all persons acting under the authority of respondent Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) from enforcing or implementing the Joint Resolution of the Office of the Ombudsman dated December 2, 2016 as against petitioner Leonardia in OMB-V-A-13-0186 until this suit has been adjudicated with finality by the court.”
The CA said in manifestation (notice of deputation) dated February 10, 2017, the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) manifested that the Office of the Legal Affairs of the Office of the Ombudsman has been deputized to assist the OSG and represent respondent Ombudsman in the present case, including the authority to file pleadings and papers.
The respondents, through the Office of the Legal Affairs of the Office the Ombudsman, filed a comment with opposition to the issuance of writ of preliminary injunction (WPI) and to recall previously issued TRO. On the other hand, no comment was filed by respondent DILG despite due notice. Considering the time that has lapsed to file its comment, respondent DILG is deemed to have waived the right to file the same, the court added.
The respondents based their argument on the immediately executory nature of the decisions and orders of the Office of the Ombudsman. Respondents stressed that the issuance of the WPI, which would stay the penalty imposed by the Office of the Ombudsman in an administrative case, would encroach on the Ombudsman's rule-making powers and render nugatory the provisions of Section 7, Rule III of the Rules Procedure of the Office of the Ombudsman.
The court said only a TRO or WPI, duly signed by a court of competent jurisdiction, stays the immediate implementation of the said Ombudsman decisions, orders, or resolutions.
Verily, public respondents failed to establish why the WPI prayed for by petitioner should be issued pending final resolution of the instant petition for review. Indubitably, petitioner’s clear legal right to the injunctive relief sought has not been satisfactorily rebuffed by respondents in their opposition to the issuance of WPI and urgent motion to recall the TRO, it added.
Petitioner’s claim of condonation prior to its abandonment stands. To reiterate, while it is true that Ombudsman decisions, orders or resolution are immediately executory, it is settled that these may be stayed by a TRO and WPI upon justifiable grounds. As presented in this Court's January 20, 2017 resolution, the court further said.
For his part, Leonardia said he is happy, and thankful to the CA.
“We stand by the merits of the case, we feel that we have every chance of pursuing this to the end,” he said.
“Everything now will return to normal, and I am thankful to the people who are with me through thick and thin,” the mayor added.
He said the WPI is good while the case will continue.
Bacolod City Representative Greg Gasataya said he is happy with the issuance of the WPI and this development will bring back the normal operations of the local governance.
“We don’t want to disrupt the progress and projects in the city,” he said.
Vice Mayor El Cid Familiaran and Councilors Renecito Novero and Caesar Distrito said they are vindicated on the point that the mayor is entitled to a preliminary injunction.
“We are hoping that there will be a dismissal of the case, however, this is what we expect. This is a vindication to the group of the mayor and the Grupo Progreso,” Distrito said.
“With this development, we are hoping that all the insinuations and intrigues that the mayor will be dismissed will stop. This one will put everything in place,” he added.