The Office of the Ombudsman found Bacolod City Mayor Evelio Leonardia along with nine current and former city officials who have been ordered dismissed from the service after they were deemed guilty of grave misconduct and gross neglect of duty for the questionable procurement of P50 million in furnitures and fixtures for the local government center between 2008 and 2010, during Leonardia’s earlier term as city executive.

In a resolution penned by Assistant Ombudsman Edna Dino and approved by Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales last month, Leonardia and the other officials were also found to have probable cause along with Leonardia and his co-respondents for violating Section 3(e) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practice Act.

Ordered dismissed with Leonardia were secretary to the mayor Goldwyn Nifras, who was the Bids and Awards Committee chairman at the time; former city budget officer Luzviminda Treyes, BAC vice chair; former city treasurer Annabelle Badajos; BAC member Nelson Sedillo Sr.; technical working group members Belly Aguillon, Aladino Agbones and Jaries Ebenizer Encabo, and BAC Secretariat head Melvin Recabar.

Two other respondents – the late city legal officer Allan Zamora, and lawyer Gliceria Caduhada, “who could not be served a copy of the order to file counter-affidavit” – were not included in the ruling.

Aside from dismissal, the officials have also been perpetually disqualified from holding public office, their retirement benefits forfeited and their civil service eligibilities canceled.

A copy of the ruling, filed by the Public Assistance and Corruption Prevention Office of the Office of the Ombudsman-Visayas, stemmed from an email from Francisco Puey, described as an “observer” at the bidding for the contract to supply the furniture and fixtures, who noted that the BAC considered Comfac Corp. “‘passed despite its declaration in the general information sheet required by the Securities and Exchange Commission that its business was information technology support system instead of furniture manufacturer.”

The defendants claimed that Comfac was eligible to bid for the contract because it had a “manufacturing facility” that turned out to have a sister company, Cornersteel Corp.

But, the investigation by the Ombudsman showed that when the BAC declared Comfac “the bidder with the single calculated responsive bid,” Cornersteel was “not mentioned at all.”

It also noted that while Comfac CEO Charito Aquino certified that they were the “exclusive distributor” for Cornersteel, the two firms’ being “sister companies is beside the point – what matters was that they had separate corporate personalities.”

The ruling said that had Comfac reneged on its obligations, “the city government would be hard put to hold Cornersteel liable as it could always raise the defense that it was not privy to the contract.”

It also said that “naming an ineligible corporation as the eligible bidder reflects bias and partiality that should not be countenanced in procurement activities involving public funds.”

The resolution also said that Comfac should have been required to post a performance bond of P2.452 million for the P49.0359-million contract but, instead, the respondents “merely converted the bid security of P500,000 to (a) performance bond,” exposing the city government “to the risk of Comfac not performing its obligation in accordance with the P.O. (purchase order).”

Aside from this, the resolution said, the respondents failed to collect a total of P14,152,717.80 in liquidated damages from Comfac for delayed deliveries, causing “undue injury to the government and the taxpayers of Bacolod City … while giving unwarranted benefits” to the firm.

Although the resolution acknowledged that “bad faith cannot be attributed to the respondents,” it said they had committed “gross negligence by their wanton exercise of discretion.”

It also said that, “while conspiracy might not have attended the commission of the act, each of the respondents is liable as principal by direct participation and indispensable cooperation under Article 17(1) and (3) of the Revised Penal Code.”

“The illegal procurement activity could not have been accomplished without the individual acts of the respondents that contributed to the commission of the crime.”

Puey when reached for comment said the resolution is “justice not only for us but also a lesson for the officials in Bacolod for their wrongdoing in office.”

City Legal Officer Joselito Bayatan said they cannot yet issue a statement as they still has not received a copy of the Ombudsman’s ruling.

Leonardia is expected to answer the Ombudsman’s dismissal order, perpetual disqualification to hold public office, among others, during a press conference sometime today, January 16.*



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