A senior provincial board member has assumed as the second highest official of the province of Bohol after the elected vice-governor failed to secure a writ of preliminary injunction for a nine-month suspension order earlier issued by the Office of the Ombudsman.
Lawyer Venzencio “Benjie” Arcamo is expected to preside the regular session of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan (SP) Friday next week in replacement of Vice-Governor Dionisio D. Balite, also a lawyer, who has been ordered suspended by the Ombudsman due to the two resolutions he and other provincial lawmakers had signed in 2006 and in 2009.
The resolutions authorized the late Bohol governor, lawyer Erico Boyles Aumentado, to purchase heavy equipment units worth at least P160 million using separate letters of credit issued in favor of two Cebu branches of Land Bank of the Philippines and Philippine National Bank. A state accounting rule had once prohibited such mode of transaction, but a new government guideline has abandoned this prohibition.
Aside from Balite, who was an SP member when he signed the resolution, also ordered suspended by the anti-graft body are former board members Concepcion O. Lim, Jose E. Veloso, Felix R. Uy, Godofreda O. Tirol, Brigido Z. Imboy, Cesar Tomas M. Lopez, and Alfonso R. Damalerio II. Three former bids and awards committee (BAC) members – Laura Saramosing-Boloyos, Felix M. Mejorada and Abraham D. Clarin – were also suspended.
Balite was elected vice-governor in the May 2016 elections, but in January this year, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales issued a suspension order, which also directed the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) and Gov. Edgar M. Chatto to implement the Ombudsman’s ruling.
After the Ombudsman rejected a consolidated motion for reconsideration, Balite and company, however, were able to secure a 60-day temporary restraining order (TRO) from the Court of Appeals (CA). The TRO expired on August 12, 2017.
Earlier, on July 27, 2017, the CA Special Eighteenth Division based in Cebu City thrashed Balite and other officials’s application for issuance of a Writ of Preliminary Injunction, paving the way for the nine-month suspension order to finally take effect this week.
The CA, in its resolution, said that the decision of the Ombudsman is “immediately executory pending appeal and may not be stayed by the filing of an appeal or the issuance of an injunctive writ.”
Meanwhile, in the Ombudsman’s resolution, it cited a Commission on Audit (COA) memorandum circular, which states that the opening of letters of credit for the purchase of heavy equipment was contrary to Section 42.5 of the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of Republic Act No. 9184, otherwise known as the “Government Procurement Reform Act.”
The suspended officials had argued they were not directly involved in Aumentado’s heavy equipment transaction, saying they were “only” acting in good faith and on a ministerial capacity when they signed the resolutions requested by Aumentado. The former governor died on December 25, 2012, and death had released him from all legal liabilities concerning the heavy equipment purchase.
The anti-graft body, however, nixed the contention of the suspended Bohol officials, saying, “It is the responsibility of respondents before passing the resolution to ascertain if doing so does not contravene any provision of the law, more so that the government had to bear the incidental charges or the cost in the opening of the (letter of credit).” (Ligalig Mike Ortega)