Sandigan convicts 10 municipal officials of graft

Published October 14, 2020, 3:55 PM

by Czarina Nicole Ong Ki

Ten former officials of Viga, Catanduanes have been convicted by the Sandiganbayan Third Division of their graft charge for purchasing a backhoe in 2005 without complying with proper procurement laws.

Mayor Jose dela Cruz Torres, Vice Mayor Yolando Bernal Tuquero, and Sangguniang Bayan (SB) members Lourdes Alberto del Rosario, Asuncion Loyola Odi, Rosario T. Mollasgo, Horacio Timola Aquino Jr., Domingo Creer Villanueva, Orbel Tolon Tonio, William Tuno Tuplano, and Gomercindo Tebelin Litong were all found guilty beyond reasonable doubt of violating Section 3(e) of Republic Act 3019, otherwise known as the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

Meanwhile, SB member Nerissa Usero, who is one of the co-accused, still remains at large.

They were sentenced to suffer the indeterminate penalty of six years and one month to 10 years as maximum, with perpetual disqualification from holding public office.

They were convicted over the irregular purchase of a JCB 4CS 4x4x4 backhoe loader from Compressed Air Machineries Equipment Corp. (CAMEC) worth P13,950,000 since there was no public bidding conducted. They also declared that CAMEC is the sole distributor of the equipment.

For the anti-graft court, the fact that the local officials did away with the entire bidding process for the purchase of the backhoe loader showed their gross inexcusable negligence.

Torres initiated the procurement even though there was not enough budgetary allocation, so he had to enter into a loan agreement with PNB.

However, there was no evidence presented during trial that the bids and awards committee (BAC) of Viga recommended the use of the alternative mode of procurement. The accused simply adopted a resolution authorizing the mayor to apply and negotiate for a loan to procure the backhoe loader.

“It was the SB of Viga who took it upon themselves to determine the method of procurement,” the court said.

“Indubitably, all the accused jointly expedited an irregular and illegal procurement…with undue preference for CAMEC as supplier with no valid justification whatsoever,” it added.

The 48-page decision was written by Associate Justice Ronald Moreno and concurred in by Presiding Justice Amparo Cabotaje-Tang and Associate Justice Bernelito Fernandez.