Sandiganbayan takes judicial notice of typhoon Yolanda in southern Samar graft case

Published October 1, 2019, 11:40 AM

by Patrick Garcia

By Czarina Nicole Ong Ki

Typhoon Yolanda, which made landfall in the Visayas region sometime on November 8, 2013, was one of the most powerful tropical cyclones that destroyed countless lives and properties in the country.

Sandiganbayan (MANILA BULLETIN)
Sandiganbayan (MANILA BULLETIN)

Several accused in the graft case filed against former Guian Mayor Annaliza Gonzales-Kwan of Southern Samar has pleaded with the Sandiganbayan Sixth Division to take judicial notice of the typhoon since it destroyed municipal records and documents that are relevant to the case.

Gonzales-Kwan was accused of violating Section 3(e) of R.A. 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act together with former bids and awards committee (BAC) members Arsenio Salmida, Esperanza Cotin, Ma. Nenita Ecleo, Felipe Padual, Danilo Colandog, and Gilberto Labicane.

This was for the reportedly anomalous contract to purchase P2.1 million fire truck the municipality entered into back in 2007.

With the exception of Gonzales-Kwan and Labicane, the accused filed a motion to take judicial notice on August 3. In the motion, the accused said that “among those records and documents that were lost, damaged and destroyed are papers/documents pertinent to the bidding and procurement of the fire truck subject matter of the instant case.”

They prayed that the Court take discretionary judicial notice of the typhoon on the ground that the events and circumstances are of public knowledge.

The prosecution filed its comment on August 16, stressing that the Court can take judicial notice of the typhoon, but not to the extent of damage or destruction of public records.

For its part, the anti-graft court partially granted the motion and took “judicial notice that Typhoon Yolanda made landfall in the Visayas on or about November 8, 2013.”

“The Court denies the motion to take judicial notice as to all other matters and details included thereon,” it added.

The two-page resolution was signed by Chairperson Sarah Jane Fernandez and Associate Justices Karl Miranda and Kevin Narce Vivero on September 2.

On January 23, 2007, Gonzales-Kwan was accused of conspiring and confederating with her co-accused in awarding IERSI the contract for the supply of a fire truck worth P2,100,000 without conducting a competitive bidding.

Instead, Gonzales-Kwan and her co-accused resorted to the alternative mode of negotiated procurement without sufficient justification and compliance with the procedures under R.A. 9184, also known as the Government Procurement Reform Act.

As a result, they ensured the award to IERSI despite the irregularities and its non-entitlement to said payment for not having gone through the legal process of bidding, to the damage and prejudice of public interest.