The Sandiganbayan has convicted former Provincial Health Officer Dr. Antonio Palanca of Brooke’s Point, Palawan and two others of malversation due to the misappropriation of 16,728 tons of steel iron in 2007.
Also found guilty in a decision handed down by the anti-graft court’s fourth division were Administrative Aide Arturo Magpantay Jr. and private individual Mark Concepcion, a representative of the General Services Office (GSO).
Palanca, Magpantay, and Concepcion were sentenced to three years and six months of prision correccional in its medium period as minimum to seven years and four months of prision mayor in its medium period as maximum.
They were also ordered to pay a fine of P250,920, which is equivalent to the 16,728 tons of steel iron, plus interest at the rate of five per cent per annum reckoned from the finality of the decision until fully paid. They were also perpetually disqualified from holding any public office.
Their co-accused — Raquillo Zafra and Alfredo Arangat, also GSO representatives — were acquitted because they were just hired as drivers who transported the scrap metals and had no knowledge of the illegal act.
Due to his death, the case against Rene Gabuat was dismissed.
Palanca and his co-accuses were charged with misappropriating 16,728 tons of steel iron from the demolished building of Brooke’s Point District Hospital.
The prosecution said Palanca and Magpantay caused the sale of the scrap iron without public bidding and pocketed the proceeds of the sale, which amounted to P250,920.
During trial, Palanca insinuated that the subject scrap metals were owned by the contractor and not the hospital. However, no evidence was presented to prove his statement.
The prosecution, on the other hand, was able to present evidence showing that Palanca authorized Concepcion to purchase and take the scrap metals without proper bidding and without the proceeds of the sale going to the provincial coffers.
The anti-graft found it suspicious that Concepcion paid for the scrap metals directly to Magpantay at the weighing station, and that Concepcion received no receipt for it.
For the court, the acts of Concepcion are contrary to a businessman transacting in good faith. Even if Concepcion claimed to have no bad intent in conducting the transaction, the court said “the manner by which he paid accused Magpantay was highly informal and irregular for a valid government transaction.”
Associate Justice Lorifel Pahimna penned the 66-page decision with the concurrence of Fourth Division Chairperson, Associate Justice Alex Quiroz, and Associate Justice Bayani Jacinto.