Saturday, May 4, 2013

Ombudsman junks plea to reverse decision dismissing move to suspend Ecija mayor, 7 town officials

CABIAO, Nueva Ecija – The Office of Ombudsman has denied a motion for reconsideration to reverse its earlier ruling dismissing apetition to preventively suspend reelectionist Mayor Gloria Crespo-Congco and seven other town officials.
          In a seven-page decision penned by Joaquin Salazar, director of the evaluation and investigation office of the Deputy Ombudsman for Luzon and aproved by Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales, the anti-graft body denied the motion for reconsideration filed by Councilors Julito Wycoco and Rodrigo Rivera seeking a reversal of its March 27,2012 ruling which junked the motion to suspend Congco, Vice mayor Ernesto S. Talens Jr. and Councilors Danilo Bagan, Danilo Clemente, Luisito Relucio, Jose Talens and Dante Umali and Sangguniang Bayan secretary Luisito Guevarra.
          Wycoco, younger brother of the late National Bureau of Investigation Director Reynaldo Wycoco, is running for vice mayor under the Unang Sigaw Partido ng Pagbabago as the running mate of Rivera’s brother Ramil.
          They are challenging the reelection bids of Congco, a four-time mayor and Talens who are under the banner of the National Unity Party headed by outgoing three-term fourth district Rep. Rodolfo Antonino.   
          In its March 27,2012 ruling, the Ombudsman threw out the complaint filed by Julito Wycoco and Rivera after finding no strong evidence of guilt to warrant the suspension of Congco and her seven co-accused pending investigation of an administrative complaint for grave misconduct the duo had earlier filed against the respondents.
          In their complaint-affidavit, Wycoco and Rivera earlier sought the respondents’ preventive suspension after accusing them of conspiring in allegedly falsifying two SB appropriation ordinances and misappropriating public funds worth at least P10.48-million in 2011 allegedly for the promotion of their personal interests and political gains.
          In March 27, 2012 order, the Ombudsman said the complainants’ motion is not meritorious as it failed to concur with two pre-requisites of the law before a preventive suspension order of any public officer could be handed down pending the investigation.           These two requisites are Sections 24 of Republic Act 6770 (Ombudsman Act of 1989), and 9, of Rule III of the Ombudsman Rules of Procedure, which said that: “(1) the evidence of guilt is strong,” “(2b) the charges warrant removal from the service,” and “(2c) the respondent’s continued stay in office may jeopardize the case filed against him.”
          It also said: “The complainants alleged that the respondents unlawfully spent millions of pesos but (they) surprisingly failed to buttress such allegations with telling proof such as a copy of an audit report from the Commission on Audit.
“It is a basic rule that bare allegations, unsubstantiated by evidence, are not equivalent to proof. In short, mere allegations are not evidence,” it said.
In junking the motion, the Ombudsman also said: “That the pieces of evidence presented by the complainants do not suffice to produce compelling proof that may warrant the removal from service of the respondents.”
          “This office finds that the administrative adjudication of the case may proceed without necessarily placing the respondents under preventive suspension,” it further stated.
This prompted Wycoco and Rivera to file a motion for reconsideration, arguing that the assailed order is contrary to law and jurisprudence.
They said they did not present any COA report as all monies spent and released through an invalid law or ordinance is “considered malversed or stolen.”
In its latest ruling, the Ombudsman said the motion for reconsideration is not impressed with valid grounds to reverse or modify its assailed order. It noted that the Ombudsman Rules of Procedure provides that a motion for reconsideration must be based on any of the grounds such as the discovery of new evidence which materially affects the order, or grave errors of facts or laws or serious irregularities have been committed.
It said in the motion for reconsideration, Wycoco and Rivera neither presented new evidence and miserably failed to show or establish that the Ombudsman indeed committed grave errors or irregularities regarding the March 27,2012 order.
It further stated that its “insistent prayer” for the issuance of a preventive suspension order pending investigation are “mere rehash of those already mentioned in the complaint and which had already been discussed in the order sought to be reconsidered. Hence, it would be superfluous to further discuss them.”
“In fine, this Office finds no cogent reason to warrant the modification, much less the reversal of the order dated March 27,2012,” the Ombudsman said. (Manny Galvez)


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