Ombudsman junks Ebreo’s raps vs Leonardia, Lopez

THE Office of the Ombudsman in the Visayas dismissed for lack of merit the criminal and administrative complaints filed by Bacolod Traffic Authority Office head Reynaldo Ebreo against Bacolod City Representative Evelio Leonardia and Councilor Carlos Jose Lopez involving the city’s acquisition of a patrol boat.

The complaints were filed in 2014 against the two public officials for violation of Article 217, 220 and 221 of the Revised Penal Code, and Sections 3(e) and (h) of Republic Act 3019, and for grave misconduct.

Both Leonardia and Lopez claimed that the filing of the complaint was politically-motivated and for the purpose of harassing them.

The 28-foot patrol boat valued at P2.189 million was granted by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources to the city.

Lopez said the city is obliged to pay Airwaves Cargo Services for the delivery of the patrol boat amounting to P461,000 and that this is backed by the Commission on Audit.

The Ombudsman, in its joint resolution dated February 9, said a perusal of the provisions of the Revised Penal Code alleged to have been violated by the respondents would reveal that they require that the offender had actual custody or possession of the property.

In the instant case, however, there was no sufficient evidence to show that respondent public officials had custody or possession of the patrol boat. The undated certificate of acceptance and invoice receipt of the property signed by Leonardia does not prove that he had custody of the patrol boat, the resolution read.

This was substantiated by the letter of BFAR, it added.

The Ombudsman said it finds credence in Lopez’s claim that he took it upon himself to look for a capable courier to transport the patrol boat from BFAR Manila to Bacolod because if the city does not claim it before the deadline set by the bureau, the donation would be cancelled and awarded to another local government unit.

This negates any finding of manifest partiality, evident bad faith or inexcusable negligence on his part, the Ombudsman’s resolution read.

The Ombudsman said that if the injury referred to by Ebreo is that the city was deprived of the use of the patrol boat, the same cannot be attributed to the respondents since the patrol boat was not in their custody or possession but with Air Waves, which was retaining it pending payment of the freight charges.

As to the transport fees payable to Air Waves, there can be no undue injury on the part of the city since the same remains unpaid, the resolution read.

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