By Czarina Nicole Ong-Ki
Former Lupao Mayor Richard M. Ramos of Nueva Ecija has been cleared by the Sandiganbayan Sixth Division of his graft charge in relation to the reportedly anomalous procurement of fuel and gas for the municipality.
Ramos was acquitted alongside Shiela Marie Orofino Jacalan, owner of SRS Gas Filling Station where the fuel and gas were purchased back in 2007.
At the time, the municipality of Lupao had difficulty purchasing petroleum products because there were only three gasoline stations within the vicinity. These are SRS Gas Filling Station, Parista Fuel Station, and Shell Gas Station. Parista and Shell stopped servicing the petroleum requirements of the municipality because of the failure of the previous administration to settle its obligations.
One of SRS gas filling station’s owners is a first cousin of Ramos.
On July 23, 2007, the Sangguniang Bayan of Lupao approved a resolution authorizing Ramos to purchase and establish an open credit line with SRS Filling Station. No public bidding was conducted.
In its decision, the anti-graft court ruled that Ramos indeed committed a prohibited act when he purchased the petroleum products without undergoing competitive public bidding. This was in violation of Section 10 of the Government Procurement Reform Act and Section 356 of the Local Government Code.
However, the prosecution failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt that Ramos caused undue injury to any party, including the government, and that he gave unwarranted benefits to Jacalan.
“In this case, the prosecution failed to specify, quantify, and prove to the point of moral certainty the supposed undue injury suffered by the government,” the decision read. “No allegation was made and no evidence was adduced to show that the price of the subject fuel and petroleum products is unfavorable to the government.”
The prosecution also failed to prove the act of conspiracy between Ramos and Jacalan.
“No allegation was made, much less proof adduced, showing that they performed overt acts aimed at the same criminal design. Hence, the court finds no more reason to discuss at length the allegation of conspiracy, which clearly does not exist in this case,” the decision stated.
The 35-page decision was penned by Associate Justice Kevin Narce Vivero with the concurrence of Chairperson Sarah Jane Fernandez and Associate Justice Karl Miranda.