CITING insufficient evidence, the Court of Appeals (CA) 12th Division has trashed 24 administrative cases against Cagayan de Oro City Mayor Oscar Moreno over the rental of heavy equipment without public bidding.
The CA has granted the mayor’s petitions for certiorari and prohibition as well as reversed and set aside the decisions issued by the Ombudsman.
Moreno is still on trial for 22 criminal cases before the Sandiganbayan.
Lawyer Dale Mordeno, Moreno's legal counsel, said they are set to file a manifestation before the Sandiganbayan to inform the anti-graft court about the dismissal.
He said the CA decision has a "persuasive value" on the graft cases.
"Ang Court of Appeals gani niingon nga there is no substantial evidence sa administrative cases, how much more sa Sandiganbayan when you have to prove guilt beyond reasonable doubt," he said in a press conference that he and the mayor called on Friday, June 21, 2019.
"The decision of other courts has persuasive effect to whatever decision any court will also render later on," he added.
Moreno, for his part, said he was "beyond words for the vindication”.
"Nothing is greater, nothing is sweeter than being vindicated especially if the vindication pertains to a string of design and premeditated accusations," he said.
Moreno said the decision is timely as he is about to begin his third term as mayor of Cagayan de Oro.
"We are doubly inspired and doubly committed to serve the people," he added.
It can be recalled that the Office of the Ombudsman ordered the disqualification of Moreno and other former officials of Misamis Oriental for renting heavy equipment without public bidding while he served as governor of the province.
Moreno’s camp resorted to a negotiated procurement rather than the usual public bidding because of the immediate need of the province.
The court ruled that the act of petitioners in resorting to negotiated procurement "cannot be considered misconduct, grave or simple."
It added that it is indisputable that the weather disturbances at the time caused damage to the province and thus, urgent repairs and installation of other infrastructure were needed.
The court also pointed out that the notices of disallowance and other evidence issued by the Commission on Audit due to the alleged irregularities were "utterly insufficient to substantiate the charges against petitioners".
Mordeno lauded the Court of Appeals for rendering a decision based on evidence and merits.
"Maayo kaayo ang decision kay nag touch gyud siya sa evidence. The Court of Appeals simply said there was no substantial evidence to support the accusations. In other words, ang pag-decide sa 24 ka cases, pinaagi gyud sa merit, dili sa technicalities," he added. (SunStar Philippines)