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Southern Leyte governor dismissed from the service

CEBU, Philippines - Call it bad timing, but the news from the Office of the Ombudsman ordering the dismissal from office of Southern Leyte Governor Damian Mercado dampened the festive mood of the people who were celebrating Maasin City’s 17th Charter Day yesterday.

The news was released by the Ombudsman at around 11:40 a.m., and the Mercados were seen leaving the Charter Day celebration in a huff after the program, which was attended by the guest of honor, Presidential Assistant for the Visayas Michael Dino.

Also in the celebration was Maasin City Mayor Nacional “Nikko” Mercado, son of Southern Leyte Representative Roger Mercado who is the brother of the embattled governor.

The Ombudsman, in a press release issued yesterday morning, said Governor Mercado was ordered dismissed from service after he was found guilty of grave misconduct for mishandling the purchase of second-hand vehicles in 2007.

Five other state workers were similarly indicted: Bids and awards committee chairman Crispin Arong, Jr., vice-chairperson Feorillo Demeterio Jr., and members Anecito Narit, Benjase Lumen and Consuelo Ladrera. Used cars supplier Baltazar Avila Sr. of Kojac Auto Repair Shop and Auto Supply was also charged.

The case stemmed from a complaint filed against the governor and six others for allegedly buying second-hand cars from the supplier, including the one that Mercado previously owned.

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The Ombudsman statement said: “Records of the investigation showed that in 2007, Mercado, then Maasin City mayor, approved the purchase of three reconditioned vehicles totaling P2.3million. After bidding, the acquisition of the Mitsubishi Pajero, Isuzu Wizard and Toyota Grandia was awarded to Kojac Auto Repair Shop.

“In-depth investigation found, however, that Mercado was the original owner of the Grandia which was sold to Avila in November 2006 for P390,000, and that the Wizard was acquired by Avila in 2006 for only P275,000. Ombudsman investigators also found that “by the time the procurements were made, the Mitsubishi Pajero unit was already 13 years old while the Toyota Grandia was 11 years old and the Isuzu Wizard was 12 years old.”

In its Joint Resolution, the Ombudsman stated that respondents “exhibited manifest partiality, evident bad faith or gross inexcusable negligence in awarding the procurement contracts to Kojac without regard to pertinent law and rules.”

The Ombudsman added that the BAC failed to show any proof of advertisement of the invitation to bid to ensure competitive bidding as the records only contain notices addressed to Kojac.

Respondents were also held liable for failing to meet the requirement on “remaining useful life in the procurement of second-hand or reconditioned vehicles as required under Department of Budget and Management National Budget Circular No. 446-A.”

Under the circular, the remaining useful life of the vehicle to be purchased must not be lower than five years in the case of high official function cars, passenger vans and other service vehicles, and, three years for utility vehicles.

The respondents were also faulted for undue reference to brand names as the purchase requests clearly reflected the particular brand of vehicle to be bought, a prohibition under the Government Procurement Reform Act (Republic Act No. 9184).

“Given that the subject vehicles were already more than 10 years old when these were purchased, their remaining useful life is obviously below the standard prescribed in the Circular,” the Resolution reads.

The Freeman and The Philippine Star tried to reach Governor Mercado through his brother, Rep. Roger Mercado, who however did not reply or give any comment to the issue.

It was also learned from sources that four of the BAC members, except for Lumen, who were also dismissed by the Ombudsman are no longer in public service after being dismissed, also by the Ombudsman, for other offenses in the past. (FREEMAN)

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