Court of Appeals stays 11 dismissal orders against Cagayan de Oro mayor

MANILA, Philippines – The Court of Appeals (CA) on Thursday, October 5, issued a 60-day temporary restraining order (TRO) on 11 dismissal orders made against Cagayan de Oro Mayor Oscar Moreno.

The 23-page resolution was penned by CA Associate Justice Louis Acosta and served at the City Mayor’s Office at 6:10 pm Thursday.

Moreno faces 24 administrative cases for the rental of equipment during his tenure as governor of Misamis Oriental from 2004 to 2013.

The Ombudsman issued 22 dismissal orders against the mayor. The appellate court issued writs of preliminary injunction on 6 of the dismissal orders, as well as TROs on 16 other dismissal orders.

Moreno’s lawyers requested the CA to consolidate the cases.

The Moreno cases stem from a plunder case for P33 million worth of equipment rentals and 3 other lawsuits filed by Antonio Nunez, a supporter of the local opposition party PaDayon Pilipino.

Rather than dismiss the plunder case – as the amount was below P50 million – the Ombudsman chopped the plunder case and the 3 other suits into 24 cases.

Political harassment

Former Senate President Aquilino Pimentel Jr, himself a former and Cagayan de Oro mayor. called the chopping of cases against Moreno a form of “political harassment.”

“I can say it is unfair that you chop one case to harass an official,” said Pimentel.

Pimentel added it was ironic the Ombudsman – an agency of government tasked to prevent political harassment – could be used for such.

Pimentel, however, stopped short of blaming Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales, adding, “She only depends on the recommendation of the regional office in Davao.”

Dale Bryan Mordeno, Moreno’s lead legal counsel, meanwhile said the cases should have been dismissed by the Ombudsman for lack of basis.

In a comment on the equipment rental transaction, the Region X office of the Commission on Audit (COA) said, “It is incontrovertible that services have been rendered, services of equipment not found exceeding the prevailing rental rules, benefits enjoyed by the public, and the accomplishments duly recognized and cited.”

A 2013 audit requested by Misamis Oriental Governor Bambi Emano, however, disallowed the equipment rentals, citing alleged defects in the procurement process.

Moreno questioned this with the COA en banc, however, arguing the rentals were not irregular. He also said his right to due process was violated as the COA did not invite him to the exit conference to contest the notices of disallowance.

The COA en banc has yet to make a final ruling on the issue. –