By Czarina Nicole Ong-Ki
The Sandiganbayan Sixth Division denied the motion for reconsideration filed by several Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) officials seeking to convince the anti-graft court to reverse their graft conviction involving an anomalous asphalt overlay project in 2008.
Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) Chairperson Berna Colago Coca and members Luvisminda Narcisco, Danilo Peroy, Marilyn Hilaga Celiz, and Fernando Tuares were convicted for violating Section 3(e) of R.A. 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act on July 31 and were sentenced to six to eight years’ imprisonment.
The charge against their co-accused, the late DPWH Director IV Rolando Martin Asis, was ordered dismissed in light of his death.
They were faulted for giving International Builder’s Corporation (IBC) unwarranted benefits by awarding it the asphalt overlay project for the Iloilo-Jaro Diversion Road without the conduct of public bidding and an appropriation to cover the expenditures for the project.
Coca, Peroy, and Tuares filed a motion for reconsideration on August 14, while Narciso and Celiz filed theirs the next day.
Coca, Peroy, and Tuares harped on the presumption of good faith and regularity in the performance of official functions, since the request for negotiated procurement was approved by then-DPWH Secretary Hermogenes Ebdane.
They added that IBC, which was handpicked by the BAC, was financially, legally, and technically capable to undertake the project, and there was no proof of overpricing or sub-standard civil works from the company.
On the other hand, Narciso and Celiz said the court erred in finding them guilty despite the prosecution’s failure to prove the act of conspiracy on their part.
However, the anti-graft court said in its ruling that there must be an immediate and compelling need to justify negotiated procurement other than that provided by the accused.
The court added that there was nothing to show that the repairs were necessitated by a calamity, nor was there imminent danger to life or property or that there was a loss of vital public services and utilities.
“Competitive public bidding is the primary mode of procurement, and it was thus necessary on the part of the accused to show why an alternative mode of procurement was resorted to,” the resolution stated. “This they failed to demonstrate before the Court.”
The 17-page resolution was written by Associate Justice Kevin Narce Vivero with the concurrence of Chairperson Sarah Jane Fernandez and Associate Justice Karl Miranda.