By Czarina Nicole Ong Ki
Former Pastrana Mayor Joselito Chan of Leyte and four others have been acquitted by the Sandiganbayan Second Division of their graft charge involving a reportedly over-budgeted feasibility study conducted back in 2005.
Chan was initially accused of violating Section 3(e) of Republic Act No. 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act together with then-municipal accountant Jocelyn Morbos-Vilvestre, budget officer Anacleta Gabriente, planning and development officer Imelda Candaza, and treasurer Carmencita Gallego.
On May 23, 2005, Chan and his co-accused reportedly gave unwarranted benefits to R.C. Soledad Construction for the conduct of the InfRES feasibility study for the construction of farm-to-market roads in the interior barangays of Pastrana in the amount of P2.4 million. The said amount went beyond the authorized appropriated amount of P480,000, therefore causing undue injury to the government amounting to P1.92 million.
However, the prosecution failed to prove during the trial that there was evident bad faith on the part of the accused to favor R.C. Soledad in conducting the feasibility study. The anti-graft court noted that it was the refusal of municipal engineer Eliseo Lucinario that prompted the accused to hire a private consultant so as to comply with the requirement of the InfRES project.
Because of Lucinario’s refusal and failure to conduct the study, Chan then convened a bids and awards committee (BAC) meeting for that purpose. The BAC first conducted competitive public bidding. When this failed, they resorted to a negotiated contract.
“It is therefore apparent that accused Chan entered into a contract with R.C. Soledad through the alternative mode of procurement not at his own behest but by recommendation of the BAC,” the decision read. “On the other hand, the BAC followed the prescribed bidding procedures and recommended the alternative method of procurement due to the two failed biddings on the subject transaction.”
The prosecution insisted that R.C. Soledad was a blacklisted constructor, but the court said there was no evidence presented to establish this. At the same time, the court found that the accusation of spending way beyond the budgeted amount was overturned when the Sangguniang Bayan Resolutions, which approved the appropriation of P2.4 million, was presented during trial.
“It must be emphasized that the local government unit of Pastrana entered into a negotiated contract with R.C. Soledad only after the competitive bidding was exhausted,” the court ruled. “The documentary and testimonial evidence presented would show that there was no intention on the part of all the accused to engage the services of R.C. Soledad beyond the allegedly allocated amount for the feasibility study.”
The 48-page decision was penned by Associate Justice Michael Frederick Musngi with the concurrence of Second Division Chairperson Oscar Herrera Jr. and Associate Justice Lorifel Pahimna.