Sandiganbayan finds Durano guilty of graft; Cebu gubernatorial bet to appeal case

Published December 2, 2021, 3:30 PM

by Calvin Cordova 

CEBU CITY — Former Tourism Secretary and Cebu gubernatorial candidate Joseph Felix ‘Ace’ Durano and five others have been convicted for violating the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

The conviction stemmed from a wallpaper project that Durano and his former colleagues initiated when he was still the DOT Secretary.

Aside from Durano, the 7th Division of the Sandiganbayan also found Oscar Policarpio Palabyab, Grace Reyes Yoro, Eduardo Alvarez Jarque Jr., Evelyn Respicio Cajigal and Adriana Mesa Flor guilty for violating Section 3(e) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act (Republic Act No. 3019).

The decision was promulgated on November 26 and signed by Associate Justice Georgina Hidalgo.

“Consequently, each of the accused is sentenced to suffer the penalty of six years and one month to 10 years of imprisonment with the accessory penalty of perpetual disqualification from holding any public office,” a portion of the decision read.

Manila Bulletin was able to obtain a copy of the 57-page decision.

In its ruling, the Sandiganbayan cited the Ombudsman’s decision finding probable cause to indict Durano and then members of the DOT’s Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) for allegedly skipping bidding processes for a wall-calendar project in 2008 that costs around P2.7 million.

The anti-graft court said it found the respondents guilty for giving ‘undue advantage to PDP Digital Inc.’ for the back-to-back wall-calendar, which is part of the department’s promotional campaign.

In a statement, Durano said politics has something to do with the development as he questioned the timing of the ruling.

“This is just a minor speed bump on the road because our campaign is gaining momentum. This will not discourage us from pursuing a dream of a better Cebu,” he said.

Durano disclosed that there were three cases that have been filed against him when he served as Tourism Secretary from 2004 to 2010.

Two of the cases have already been dismissed.

“Ang duha sa ilang gi-file na dismiss na. Karon 2021, human ko niingon nga mudagan pagkagobernador, nitumaw napud ni nga kaso. Murag klaro naman siguro unsay pasabot ani. Dili sad ni issue sa overpricing or ghost project. Ang issue ra gyud ang proceso gigamit sa DOT sa pag mugna sa project (Two of the cases that they filed have been dismissed. In 2021 and after I declared that I am running for governor, this case came up. I think it’s clear what it means. It is not an issue of overpricing or ghost project. The only issue is the process that the DOT used in implementing the project),” explained Durano.

Durano said his legal team will appeal the decision of the Sandiganbayan and expressed confidence that the charges will be eventually dropped.

“I said before that fighting the incumbent is like scaling Mt. Apo, and this is just one proof, naa kalit obstacle mugawas (there will be obstacles that will come up). Sa 20 yrs nga nag serbisyo ko sa gobyerno ug sa katawhan karun lang gyud intawun nga naa tay kaso nga ni lansar ta pag ka gobernador (In my 20 years of public service, it is only now that I am facing a case and after I decided to run for governor),” Durano said.

Durano is going up against incumbent Cebu Governor Gwendolyn Garcia in next year’s elections.