Four ex-agriculture officials cleared of graft charges by Sandiganbayan

Published June 11, 2021, 3:55 PM

by Czarina Nicole Ong Ki


Graft charges filed against four former officials of the Department of Agriculture (DA) in the purchase of computers and multi-media systems in 2005 have been dismissed by the Sandiganbayan for insufficiency of evidence.

Cleared were former Regional Technical Director Romulo S. Palcon, Administrative Officer V Godofredo A. Ramos, Chief of Finance Division Alma B. Mahinay, and Chief of Regional Agricultural Engineering Division of Regional Field Unit -XI Onofre M. Nugal.

Palcon, Ramos, and Mahinay were accused of giving PZA Trading unwarranted benefits and advantage when the company was awarded the contract for the supply of 50 sets of multimedia systems and 50 sets of computers for P5 million despite the alleged absence of Invitation to Apply for Eligibility and to Bid. Allegedly, there was no pre-procurement or pre-bid conference conducted.

In the case of Nugal, he was accused of partiality to PZA Trading in the purchase of 30 sets of multimedia systems and 30 sets of computers for P3 million despite alleged irregularities in the pre-bid process.

The Sandiganbayan allowed them to file a demurrer to evidence on the alleged weakness of those presented by the prosecution against them.

They told the anti-graft court that the prosecution failed to establish all the elements of graft beyond reasonable doubt. The prosecution did not file its comment on the demurrer pleading despite order from the court.

The anti-graft court said there was no dispute that the subject transactions did undergo public bidding. But it said the prosecution only pointed to the “defects” in the bidding process.

The “defects” were not enough to convict the accused, the court said. “The Court can only engage in a meaningful discussion on the legal consequence of these defects if they have been established as facts. This the prosecution failed to do,” it stressed.

“In these cases, not only did the prosecution fail to establish the existence of the defects in the procurement process, it also failed to present any other evidence to show that any of the accused, either singly or in concert with one another, exhibited manifest partiality, evident bad faith, or inexcusable negligence in the performance of their official functions,” the court ruled.

The Sandiganbayan’s resolution granting the demurrer to evidence was written by Associate Justice Bayani H. Jacinto with the concurrence of the court’s fourth division chairman Alex L. Quiroz and Associate Justice Lorifel L. Pahimna.