Contreras on junking of graft raps: ‘I’m vindicated’

Former Capiz governor Esteban Evan “Nonoy” Contreras

By Felipe V Celino

ROXAS CITY,  CAPIZ– “Thanks God. I’m finally vindicated.”

This was the reaction of former Capiz governor Esteban Evan “Nonoy” Contreras on the dismissal of the graft charges filed against him.

The Office of the Ombudsman (OMB) dismissed the criminal and administrative charges filed by the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of the Province of Capiz against the former governor, former Provincial Administrator Edwin Monares, former Officer-in-Charge of the Roxas Memorial Provincial Hospital (RMPH), Dr. Edmarie Tormon, and NGB Marketing Proprietor/Owner Nizza Billedo.

Cases for malversation of public funds or property (Article 217 of the Revised Penal Code), Government Procurement Reform Act (Republic Act 9184), and Plunder (R.A. 7080 under Sections 1, Par. (d), 1 and 6) were all dismissed for “lack of merit.”

The Ombudsman noted that it “finds neither probable cause to indict respondents nor substantial evidence to impose sanctions against them.”

“…there is insufficient evidence that public respondents were either directly or indirectly, interested for personal gain, or had material interest in the subject procurement projects. They only discharged the functions of their office and there is no evidence showing that they did not perform their duties with regularity. Moreover, the procurement for hemodialysis supplies were urgently needed by RMPH in view of the alarming increase in the number of patients requiring hemodialysis brought by pandemic. And contrary to the allegation of complaint, the transactions with NGB Marketing were not shown to be manifestly unlawful, inequitable or irregular.”

Apart from the fact that the amounts involved were within the legal threshold, it is clear that respondents used SVP to conduct procurement in a cost-effective and efficient manner to address the medical needs of patients and to save lives.

“Clearly, respondents resorted to SVP in order to carry out procurement in an efficient and economical manner, not only in addressing the medical needs of patients undergoing dialysis treatment but also for the mitigation and containment of the transmission of COVID-19, apart from the fact that the amounts involved were within the threshold prescribed by law.”

Because there is no evidence that Contreras created and obtained unjust wealth by misappropriation and misuse of public funds or raids on the public treasury, there is insufficient evidence to bring a case against him for Malversation and Plunder.

“…apart from insufficiency of evidence to prove that Contreras amassed, accumulated or acquired ill-gotten wealth, there is no combination or series of overt or criminal acts to speak of.”

The allegation against them for conduct detrimental to the best interests of the service, dishonesty, grave misbehavior, gross neglect of duty, and incompetence and inefficiency in the performance of official duties was not supported by sufficient evidence.

“… the complaint for Conduct Prejudicial to the Best Interest of the Service, Dishonesty, Grave Misconduct, Gross Neglect of Duty, and Incompetence and Inefficiency in the Performance of Official Duties necessarily fails. The pieces of evidence failed to satisfy the requirement of substantial evidence against public respondents.”

The complaints surfaced after the governor and other officials were accused of being unable to account for how the money for Roxas Memorial Provincial Hospital (RMPH) was spent, and that the purchase of medical supplies was also under doubt.

“Justice finally prevailed on this one; God is good indeed and I thank Him above all that he had his Divine way over the outcome,” Contreras said during an interview with the Daily Guardian.

“I think the Ombudsman should be commended for doing the due diligence that they underwent. To dismiss a case like this is a huge step. And for that, I thank my lawyers for everything they did for me to ensure a favorable outcome.” Although he said that he was “thankful the case has been dismissed, “he added: “I’m thankful that this case has been dismissed, but, at the same time, I have to admit that I was affected by the horrible lies that were reported about me during the process. I cannot blame some people who were so quick to judge without knowing the facts, but I am also thankful for those people who believed in me until the very end,” he stressed.

Contreras said that he was “determined to move forward and focus on both his personal life and businesses” in regard to his future goals.

He also added that he was “relieved.”

“We’ve known the truth about what happened the whole time. It was just a matter of giving the Ombudsman all of the evidence. We were confident that once that happened, we’d end up with the result we have now.”