By Czarina Nicole Ong Ki
Former Culasi Mayor Joel Lomugdang of Antique has been cleared by the Sandiganbayan Second Division of the graft charge filed against him because of the failure of the prosecution to prove his guilt beyond reasonable doubt.
Lomugdang was initially slapped with a violation of Section 3(e) of R.A. 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act due to the municipality’s payment of P9,862 to NK Enterprises, which is owned by Nestor Kho Yute, for the purchase of several supplies for the use of the public market.
The prosecution said that Lomugdang had direct or indirect financial or pecuniary interest in the transaction with NK Enterprises since he is a creditor of its owner, Yute. At the same time, the check payment made to NK Enterprise was eventually deposited in the account of YL Trading, Lomugdang’s private business.
For the purchase, the municipality’s bids and awards committee (BAC) issued an Abstract of Quotation of Prices and Certification of Reasonable of Prices. It was participated by NK Enterprises, Sentina Construction and Supply and Robert Trading. NK Enterprises eventually emerged as the supplier with the lowest quotation, so the purchase order was thus issued.
In this case, the prosecution failed to establish that the accused had prior knowledge that NK Enterprises would submit a price quotation before the purchase order was signed.
“It was not proved that such procurement procedures were manipulated by the accused in order to benefit NK Enterprises because he was its creditor,” the decision read. “NK Enterprises was awarded the procurement, having submitted the lowest price quotation among the three participants and there was no proof that accused went an extra mile to ensure NK Enterprises will get the award.”
Lomugdang did admit that he and Yute entered into a loan agreement secured by a Chattel Mortgage. Nonetheless, the anti-graft court ruled that this debt cannot be considered as Lomugdang having financial or pecuniary interest in the transaction.
“There were no evidence shown that the accused personally collected Yute’s credits from the municipal government, or that he manipulated the act of Yute in endorsing the check payment of the municipality of Culasi, Antique to his wife under their YL Trading’s Allied Bank account,” the decision stressed.
The 16-page decision was written by Associate Justice Lorifel Pahimna with the concurrence of Chairperson Oscar Herrera Jr. and Associate Justice Michael Frederick Musngi.