Ombud junks criminal, admin raps vs Gasataya, Leonardia, 11 others

THE Office of the Ombudsman in Quezon City dismissed the criminal and administrative charges filed against Bacolod City Representative Greg Gasataya, Mayor Evelio Leonardia and 11 other department heads over the purchase of a sanitary landfill in Barangay Felisa, Bacolod City.

The 16-page decision dated October 10, 2017 was signed by Graft Investigation and Prosecution Officer III Katherine Arnoco Genovesa-Mahawan and was approved by Ombudsman Samuel Martires on May 6, 2019.

The complainant was the Field Investigation Office, Office of the Ombudsman-Visayas. The complaint was originally filed by Sara Esguerra and Othello Ramos for violation of Section 3(e) of Republic Act 3019, as amended, and grave misconduct and act prejudicial to the public service.

Included in the case were former City Accountant Eduardo Ravena, former secretary to the Mayor Goldwyn Nifras, City Assessor Maphilindo Polvora, former city engineer Teresita Guadalupe, City Government assistant department head Josephus Cerna, City Engineer Noel Impreso, City Treasurer Annabele Badajos, Environment and Natural Resources Office head Maximo Sillo, Office of the Management and Audit-Services officer-in-charge Ricardo Dahil-Dahil, City Planning and Development Coordinator Lemuel Reynaldo, and Department of Public Services assistant head Efren Canlas.

Gasataya, who was a former city councilor and head of Clean and Green oordinating Task Force, said on Sunday, November 24, he received the copy of the decision on November 20.

“I’m very happy with this development and this is a wonderful birthday gift that I received that all along we were vindicated,” he said, adding the city followed the right process in the purchase of the sanitary landfill.

Gasataya noted that in 2008, the City Government was obliged to acquire a sanitary landfill in compliance with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

The complainants questioned the city’s purchase of a 70,000-square-meter private lot owned by Dynasty Agricultural Corp. (DAC) located in Barangay Felisa, Bacolod City at a rate of P340 per square meter or a total of P23.8 million for its solid waste facility.

Complainants Esguerra and Ramos alleged that such rate is exorbitant considering that the zonal valuation of agricultural lots in Barangay Felisa is only P100 per square meter.

In the September 14, 2009 resolution, the Ombudsman dismissed the criminal complaint, finding no probable cause to indict respondents for violation of Section 3(e) of Republic Act 3019, as amended.

"With the foregoing, this office is convinced that the respondents have exercised all the necessary prudence negating bad faith to ensure that the proper procedure and selection process was complied with the purchase of the 70,000-square-meter piece of land belonging to DAC in Barangay Felisa," it added.

When complainants Esguerra and Ramos filed a motion for reconsideration in the criminal case, the Ombudsman, in its November 19, 2010 order, dismissed their motion, finding no reason to reverse its September 14, 2009 resolution.

The Ombudsman also dismissed the administrative complaint in its September 10, 2009 decision, exonerating respondents from any administrative liability.

It said there is also no question that the office had jurisdiction over the previous cases and that the September 14 resolution and September 10 decision, which were judgments on the merits, had already become final and executory. Hence, the present complaint is barred by “res judicata” as to respondents Leonardia, Nifras, Polvora, Gasataya, Badajos, and Guadalupe.

Since the propriety of the selection process and the reasonableness of the purchase price of the DAC property were already established, it follows the respondents Cerna, Impreso, Canlas, Sillo and Reynaldo, who were part of the Bacolod Clean and Green Action Team; respondent Ravena, who certified the Disbursement Voucher (DV); and respondent Dahil-Dahil, who pre-audited the disbursement of the P20 million cannot be indicted of the crime charged nor can they be held administratively liable.

In fine, the criminal charge fails as do the administrative charges. Wherefore, the complaint is dismissed, the Ombudsman order stated.


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