By Rey Panaligan
The Court of Appeals (CA) has reversed the 2017 ruling of the Office of the Ombudsman (OMB) that ordered the dismissal from the service of Cagayan de Oro City Mayor Oscar Moreno and his perpetual disqualification to hold public office.
With the ruling, the CA removed the legal impediment to Moreno’s assumption as re-elected mayor of Cagayan de Oro City. He won his third term in the elections held last month.
The CA decision, written by Associate Justice Victoria Isabel Paredes, granted Moreno’s petition against the OMB’s ruling.
Moreno, who was charged in his capacity as governor of Misamis Oriental in 2009, and six other provincial officials were found administratively liable over the rental of heavy equipment without public bidding.
They were found guilty of grave misconduct, serious dishonesty, and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of service in 24 administrative cases involving the road repair work in Sitio Lantad, Balingasag town.
The CA’s decision also cleared former provincial bids and awards committee members Elsie Lopoy, Rolando Pacuribot, Elmer Wabe, Leemar Tinagan, Divina Bade, and Patrick Gabutina.
It ruled that the OMB committed grave abuse of discretion in ordering the dismissal of Moreno and the six provincial officials for resorting to a negotiated procurement rather than the usual public bidding.
It said the negotiated procurement “cannot be considered misconduct, grave or simple” because such act was in response to the immediate need of the province at that time.
It granted Moreno’s defense that weather disturbances at the time caused severe damage to the province and thus, urgent repairs and installation of other infrastructure were needed.
It debunked the charge of conspiracy among Moreno and the six provincial officials.
“The existence of conspiracy cannot be presumed, it must be proven through clear and convincing evidence,” the CA said.
Associate Justices Marlene Gonzales Sison and Maria Elisa Sempio Diy concurred in the decision.