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Tuloy ang kaso! SC affirms graft indictment of CamSur mayor Gaite

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The Supreme Court 9SC) has affirmed the graft indictment of Baao, Camarines Sur Mayor Melquiades Gaite over the alleged anomalous lease of a municipal property.

The SC has issued a resolution which denied his petition which assailed the ruling of the Office of the Ombudsman which found probable cause to charge him with graft before the Sandiganbayan.

The high court disagreed with Gaite that the Ombudsman gravely abused its discretion in making the ruling.

The SC stressed “the Ombudsman has full discretionary authority in the determination of probable cause during a preliminary investigation.”

“Thus, the Court cannot substitute its own judgment for that of the OMB, except when there is a grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction,” it said.

The case stemmed from the contract he entered into with Lamver Consolidated Complex Development Corporation, Inc. (LCC).

The contract allowed LCC to occupy the first and second floors of the Baao Public Market for a period of 25 years without payment for the purpose of operating a “Community Mall” on the leased premises.

However, the lease contract was allegedly beyond Gaite’s authority.

To this, Gaite claimed he was authorized to enter into the assailed lease contract by virtue of Municipal Ordinance No. 3, series of 2012, or the Revised Market Code of the Municipality of Baao.

Citing the ordinance, the SC said “the authority of Mayor Gaite to execute a lease contract covering the Baao Public Market is confined to the terms and conditions expressly stated in the ordinance.”

“It did not vest him with a blanket authority to enter into a contract of lease with any natural or juridical person, for any lease period, and under any condition that he sees fit,” it pointed out.

“More importantly, there is nothing in Ordinance No. 3, which authorizes Mayor Gaite to lease the area subject to the Contract of Lease for a period of 25 years, or to forgo the payment of goodwill money upon showing of a great economic benefit to the municipality,” it added.

The high court noted stall owners were are required to pay goodwill money of at least Php25,000.00 for the first 10 square meters, and additional P1,000.00 per square meter in excess thereof for a fixed lease period not exceeding five years, subject to reformation during its effectivity and renewal after expiration.

Because of this, the SC also stressed Gaite “acted in bad faith or with gross inexcusable negligence when he executed the lease contract allowing LCC to lease a large portion of the Baao Public Market for a period of 25 years, without payment of the required goodwill money.”

“By ignoring the parameters provided under Ordinance No. 3 in the award and operation of market stalls, LCC was obviously granted unwarranted benefits, advantage, and preference over all other stall holders,” it said.