SC junks Batangas municipal officials’ petition versus Ombudsman finding of probable cause

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The Supreme Court (SC) has dismissed the petition of five municipal officials of Lemery, Batangas, challenging the Ombudsman’s finding of probable cause to indict them for graft over anomalies hounding a P8.19-million computerization program.

In a recent 16-page decision, the SC 3rd Division sustained the Ombudsman’s February 7, 2013 resolution against former Vice-Mayor Geraldine Ornales and councilors Rosendo Eguia, Vincent Vergara, Rodolfo de Castro, Jr., and Ramiro Magnaye.

The decision cited the officials’ move to file a petition first before the Court of Appeals (CA)—which lacks appellate jurisdiction over the Ombudsman’s actions on criminal cases—instead of heading straight to the SC.

“Petitioners’ failure to avail of the correct procedure with respect to the criminal case renders public respondent’s decision final,” read the decision penned by Associate Justice Marvic Leonen.

Even if the SC decided the case on the merits, it said the Ombudsman “properly performed its duty” when it found probable cause to bring the graft cases to court.

The SC noted that “clear preference was given to Amellar Solutions with the direct contracting mode of procurement, bypassing the usual mode of public bidding and leading to a gross disadvantage to the government.”

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