Ombud clears Ahong of graft in case over ‘ghost’ repairs

·5 min read

CRIMINAL and administrative charges filed against reelectionist Lapu-Lapu City Mayor Junard “Ahong” Chan by Rep. Paz Radaza (Lapu-Lapu City, Lone District) have been dismissed by the Office of the Ombudsman.

Radaza is challenging Chan for the City’s highest post in the May 9, 2022 elections.

In a joint resolution, the Office of the Ombudsman dismissed the administrative charge for grave misconduct filed by Radaza against Chan for allegedly authorizing the withdrawal of the criminal case for estafa which the City Government under then mayor Radaza had previously filed against a certain Emeline Dumayak of SSVF-ADD Trading, when Chan became mayor in July 2019.

The Ombudsman also dismissed the criminal charge against Chan for violating Section 3(e) of Republic Act (RA) 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

Radaza, who was then the mayor, filed the case against the contractor on June 7, 2019 after the contractor allegedly took more than P3.2 million in payments from the City Government for the repair of a road grader in 2015 that was not undertaken.

The move was reportedly made after they found out that the contractor had illegally claimed and received payment in October 2015 of P1.079 million and in January 2016 of P2.159 million for the alleged completion of the repair despite the fact that there had been no accomplishment.

The filing of the estafa case against Dumayak came after Radaza sent a Notice to Terminate the whole contract to SSVF-ADD Trading and a demand letter asking for the payment of the amount involved plus legal interests.

Days after Chan assumed office in 2019, he filed a motion to withdraw the criminal case against the contractor, stating the need for a reinvestigation on the case. Chan allegedly did this without authorization from the City Council.

Radaza claimed that Chan did not open a reinvestigation, causing undue injury to the City Government since the action to recover the amount was put on hold.

But the Office of the Ombudsman said Chan’s “act of withdrawing the case was not done through manifest partiality, evident bad faith, or gross inexcusable negligence.”

“Respondent cannot be held administratively liable as he was not motivated by a premeditated, obstinate or intentional purpose in withdrawing the case,” read the resolution.

To prove a violation of Sec. 3 (e), R.A. 3019, the Ombudsman said the offender must be a public officer; the act was done in the discharge of the public officer’s official, administrative or judicial functions; the act was done through manifest partiality, evident bad faith, or gross inexcusable negligence; and the public officer caused any undue injury to any party, including the Government, or gave any unwarranted benefits, advantage or preference.

The Ombudsman said the third element which requires that respondents should have acted with manifest partiality, evident bad faith, or gross inexcusable negligence in ordering the withdrawal of the estafa case was wanting.

“Just because respondent’s ways as incumbent Mayor of Lapu-Lapu City are different from that of complainant’s as former Mayor of the same locality does not necessarily mean that the acts of the former are tantamount to evident bad faith,” read the resolution.

In his counter-affidavit, Chan said Radaza allowed the release of the advance payment of 30 percent for the repair of a road grader amounting to P1.079 million.

He said Radaza allowed the approval of an additional payment equivalent to 60 percent of the transaction’s cost.

Chan said he became aware that on Feb. 14, 2017, Radaza received from the Commission on Audit (COA) a Notice of Disallowance dated Jan. 18, 2017, indicating that the advance payments amounting to P3.239 million equivalent to 90 percent of the total contract cost of P3.599 million was disallowed for being contrary to Section 338 of RA 7160 and Section 88 of Presidential Decree 1445 or the Government Auditing Code of the Philippines.

The incumbent mayor claimed that the transactions were tainted with irregularities, citing the second advance payment of P2,159,400 made on January 2016 even if the contractor was already in default.

Noting that only an estafa case had been filed before the City Prosecutor’s Office and only against the contractor, Chan said he was convinced that the case, filed in June 2019, or 23 days before the end of Radaza’s term, was a mere cover-up for Radaza and other employees involved to evade liability.

With this, Chan sought a reinvestigation, ordered the withdrawal of the estafa case against the contractor and instead ordered the City Attorney’s Office to immediately file a case against Radaza and other individuals including Rolando Duero, Basilides Tampus, Ernesto Imbong, Jerome Jimenez, and Dumayak.

The Ombudsman said Radaza’s assertion that the withdrawal of the case caused undue injury to the city was merely speculative, as the withdrawal did not leave Lapu-Lapu City empty-handed with Chan filing the appropriate case on the matter with the Office of the Ombudsman.

In his Facebook post on Thursday, four days before the May 9 elections, Chan said the dismissal of the case against him shows that the truth will prevail no matter how his opponent strives to put a stain on his name.

He urged his constituents not to get swayed by the issues thrown against him as he assured them of his pure and truthful service.

“Laing kaso na pod ang na DISMISSED nga gi-file sa atong kontra batok kanato sa rason nga wala kini igong basehan. Kini human nato madawat ang resolution nga gikan sa Office of the Ombudsman karon lang gyud buntaga. Nagpasabot lang kini nga bisan unsaon pagpaningkamot sa atong kaatbang nga magtumotumo og bisag unsa na lang nga issue nga makahugaw sa atong pangalan, mopatigbabaw gayud ang kamatuoran nga wala kitay gibuhat nga hiwi o nakalapas sa balaud,” Chan said.

Radaza said she would file a Motion for Reconsideration. She said she had yet to receive a copy of the resolution of the Ombudsman.

“Pero bisan unsa pa man ang rason sa Resolution, magpabilin nga dakung pagtraydor sa katawhan ang pagpa-libre sa contractor nga nikawat sa kaban sa katawhan. Tungod sa pag-atras ni Ahong sa kaso, wala pa napriso ang contractor hangtod karon,” she said in a statement sent to SunStar Cebu.

Radaza stressed that the question remains on why Chan withdrew the case.

“Magpabilin nga dakung pangutana: Ngano kaha giatras niya ang kaso? Nganong gilibre man niya ang contractor? Nakadawat ba siya og milyones?” she said in the statement. / MKG

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