By Czarina Nicole Ong
The Sandiganbayan First Division has acquitted Samar 2nd District Rep. Milagrosa Tan and three others of their graft and malversation charges in relation to the reportedly anomalous purchase of P69 million worth of drugs and medicines back in 2007.
Tan was earlier slapped with three violations of Section 3(g) and five violations of Section 3(e) of R.A. 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act as well as five violations of Article 217 of the Revised Penal Code, also known as Malversation of Public Funds or Property due to the actions made during her time as Governor of Samar.
She was charged alongside Provincial Treasurer Bienvenido Zabala Zabanecio Jr., OIC-Provincial General Service Office Ariel Yboa and Supply Officer George Guarino Abrina.
From March 28 to April 16, 2007, Tan purchased medicine totaling to P30,702,190.18 and P4,654,980.54 from Zybermed Medi Pharma, even though the company was not licensed to operate its business in Catbalogan City, Samar and in Pasig City, where it is located.
On August 21, 2007, Tan made another purchase from the same company amounting to P33,683,344.12.
The Commission on Audit (COA) deemed the transaction “unnecessary and non-responsive to the exigencies of the service,” since there was no justification for the purchase of large quantities of drugs, medicines and dental supplies.
In its 67-page decision promulgated on Friday, the anti-graft court ruled that the prosecution was unable to discharge its burden of proving the accused’s guilt beyond reasonable doubt.
The prosecution argued that the government was shortchanged in the purchases because the medicines were overpriced. There was further no actual need to purchase the medicines, and the delivery was staggered when there was only one purchase order.
But for the court, there is no evidence that the drugs and medicines purchased were over-valued, nor was there any showing of the standard prices of the items.
“It has to be convinced beyond reasonable doubt that the drugs and medicines would have commanded lower prices compared to the prices at which they were bought,” the decision read.
While the anti-graft court gave cognizance to the COA ruling declaring the purchases as “unnecessary expenditures,” it still ruled that it is not tantamount to a conclusion that the contract for the purchase of drugs and medicines is grossly and manifestly disadvantageous to the government.
“That the utility of the goods cannot be ascertained at the time of purchase, that the items were for medical missions but were instead distributed to the recipients as medical assistance, and that the accused was not able to present proof of consumption pertaining to the medical mission are circumstances which do not conclusively establish that the transaction was manifestly disadvantageous or injurious to the government,” the decision read.
The decision was penned by Associate Justice Geraldine Faith Econg with the concurrence of Chairperson Efren De La Cruz and Associate Justice Edgardo Caldona.