Cagayan de Oro mayor charged before anti-graft court

THE Office of the Ombudsman has formally charged Mayor Oscar Moreno with graft at the Sandiganbayan in relation to the leasing one excavator from Equiprent Corporation for P4 million from December 2007 to July 2008 during Moreno’s stint as Misamis Oriental governor.

In news reports, Moreno was accused of violating Section 3(e) of RA 3019, also known as the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, together with former provincial administrator Patrick Uyguanco Gabutina former acting provincial budget officer Elmer Wabe, acting provincial accountant Divina Bade, and assistant provincial engineer Rolando Pacuribot. The charges were filed by Assistant Special Prosecutor III Jorge B. Espinal.

The Ombudsman accused the respondents of "acting with evident bad faith, manifest partiality and/or gross inexcusable negligence", when they awarded the P4 million contract to Equiprent Corporation.

Their bail bond has been set at P30,000 each.

The Equiprent received the contract through a negotiated procurement, and not through public bidding.

In August 31 last year, the Ombudsman ordered the filing of 18 counts of Section 3(e) of RA 3019, also known as the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, against Moreno and other co-accused for the multi-million peso lease deals they had entered into without public bidding.

The alleged contractors for the heavy equipment rental were Equiprent, Geo Transport and Golden Richfield. However, a COA report showed that representatives from these contractors denied any transaction for equipment rental with the Provincial Government.

In a press conference last year, Moreno had argued that he settled with a negotiated purchase mode to address one of the biggest problems in the province immediately- the lack of heavy equipment for infrastructure projects.

But the Ombudsman said “there is not even a single document that invoked the existence of an emergency situation," for them to enter the negotiated purchase mode.

Complainant Antonio Nunez said the fresh graft charges against the mayor was the first deal he entered into when he was governor.

"After the 24 administrative cases, we expected that his criminal cases are next. It's good that the case is finally at the Sandiganbayan because in there, there are no more temporary restraining order (TRO), it will now be hearings, presentation of evidence," Nunez said.

Last January, Ombudsman also ordered the dismissal of Moreno and his co-accused after they were found guilty of grave misconduct, serious dishonesty, and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service.

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