By Czarina Nicole Ong
Alfonso Castañeda Mayor Jerry Pasigian of Nueva Vizcaya is appealing his graft and malversation conviction before the Sandiganbayan Fifth Division in relation to the anomalous purchase of a vehicle back in 2009.
Pasigian was convicted of violating Section 3(e) of R.A. 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act and Article 217 of the Revised Penal Code, or for malversation of public funds or property.
On April 2009, Pasigian gave unwarranted benefits to Gilbert Arellano when he awarded him the contract for the purchase of a 2003 Nissan Patrol with plate number PCJ 777 in the amount of P1,350,000.
The purchase was done without public bidding, and Pasigian even registered the vehicle under his own name instead of the municipality. After his term ended on June 30, 2013, he failed to return the vehicle to the government.
Pasigan argued in his MR that there was no proof that undue injury was caused to the government and that he gave unwarranted benefits to Arellano. He said the amount of P1,350,000 cannot be deemed as “undue injury” because the vehicle was actually purchased, and there was no basis of comparison to determine whether it was fair or not.
Should there be a comparison, Pasigan said it would be the difference between the purchase price and the price of bidding – had it taken place. However, this was not stated in the charge sheet.
“The prosecution, as mentioned earlier, failed to present proof as to the value of vehicles of the same make, model, year and specifications during the time that the subject purchase was made,” the MR read.
“There is thus no basis of comparison and the statement that ‘bidders who may have offered on equivalent item at terms more advantageous to the municipality’ is a mere speculation and conjecture, which would not amount to proof beyond reasonable doubt,” it added.
Pasigan further asserted that he acted with good faith when he disregarded public bidding, since Atty. Costales, the Provincial Legal Officer, told him it could be dispensed with given the imminent threat upon his life.
He said his knowledge on the procurement law is limited. Had there really been negligence, Pasigan countered it would not amount to gross inexcusable negligence.
At the same time, Pasigan said he caused the vehicle to be listed in properties of the municipality. This can be seen at the Official List of Properties of the Municipality of Alfonso Castaneda.
He added that the vehicle was not in his possession for several months since it was placed in a garage in Tublay, Benguet after it broke down during an official trip. It was not brought back to the municipality due to lack of funds.
Eventually, he paid for its repairs and returned it to the Municipal General Services Office (MSGO), which was the one that handled the vehicle’s registration.
Pasigan was earlier sentenced to imprisonment of six years and one month minimum and 15 years maximum for his graft charge, as well as four years and five months of prison correcional as minimum and seven years and four months of prison mayor as maximum for his malversation charge.
He was also ordered to pay a fine of P453,214.19, which is the depreciated value of the vehicle he purchased.
In its 18-page ruling, the court noted the “apparent violation” of R.A. 9184 or the Procurement Law, especially since it was purchased without public bidding. Pasigian even specified the brand name, plate number, engine number and chassis number in the purchase order, which violated Section 18 of the said law.
While direct contracting is sometimes allowed as an alternative mode of procurement, certain conditions have to be met first. These conditions include the proprietor owning copyrights or patents and exclusive distributorship of a certain item, among other things.
But in Pasigian’s case, “the record is bereft of any showing that the purchase of the subject vehicle fell under any of the foregoing conditions,” the court said.