Ombudsman junks graft case vs Cagayan de Oro mayor

LANAO DEL NORTE, Philippines – The Office of the Ombudsman has junked the graft case against Cagayan de Oro City Mayor Oscar Moreno and former city treasurer Glenn Bañez in connection with the city government’s tax settlement with Ajinomoto Philippines Corporation. 

Assistant Special Prosecutor Anthony Vista signed the resolution dismissing the earlier findings of probable cause to file a graft case against Moreno and Bañez stemming from the complaint of former Barangay Tagpangi chairman William Guialani.

The resolution was signed on January 22. The Cagayan de Oro legal office received a copy of the decision on Tuesday, February 26.

In its resolution, the Ombudsman said: “The respondents’ actions do not satisfy the undersigned’s well-founded belief that crimes were committed. The findings of probable cause are dismissed against Oscar S. Moreno and Glenn C. Bañez.”

“At the very least, it vindicates us. This is certainly an important victory,” Moreno said in a news briefing on Wednesday, February 27, where he announced the decision.

“This decision is very enlightening…. Justice still prevails,” he added.

In 2015, Guialani filed a grave misconduct complaint against Moreno and Bañes for reducing Ajinomoto’s P2.9-million tax obligation to the city to just P300,000 without the approval of the city council. Ther other respondent in the complaint is Jocelyn Tsang, lawyer of Ajinomoto Philippines.

Bañez had issued a Notice of Assessment to Ajinomoto covering P2.9 million in tax deficiency, spanning 2006 to 2012. In 2014, the city entered into a settlement agreement with Ajinomoto, accepting the company’s offer of P300,000 as full settlement of its local business tax deficiency.

The agreement was done in exchange for Ajinomoto’s withdrawal of a civil case it filed before the Regional Trial Court of Misamis Oriental.

In 2018, the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan dismissed two graft cases against Moreno for inordinate delay.

Moreno is facing other graft cases before the Sandiganbayan in connection to the lease of heavy equipment when he was Misamis Oriental governor, which was done without public bidding. –