Ex-Romblon mayor, 6 others acquitted on P550,000 seedlings purchase in 2014

Published June 25, 2022, 1:50 PM

by Czarina Nicole Ong Ki

Sandiganbayan

Former Mayor Fernald G. Rovillos of San Andres, Romblon and six other persons have been acquitted by the Sandiganbayan of their graft charges in the purchase of seedlings worth P550,000 in 2014.

Also acquitted were Municipal Accountant Melinda D. Gaac, and Municipal Planning and Development Coordinator Mary Claire B. Mortel, bids and awards committee (BAC) Chairman and Municipal Social Welfare and Development Officer Chairman Caezar P. Valiente, BAC members Gay G. Tan and Genny Rose M. Vergara, and private individual Reynaldo Perlas, the proprietor of Perlas Seed Growers.

They were accused of violating Section 3(e) of Republic Act No. 3019, the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, for allegedly giving unwarranted benefits to Perlas Seed Growers in the purchase of 10,000 pieces of Bitaog seedlings for P550,000 through direct contracting.

The prosecution claimed that the award was made despite no certification from the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) that there were no other sub-dealers selling the same seedlings at a lower price.

In its 45-page ruling, the anti-graft court noted that the case against the accused does not charge them for wrongfully abandoning the conduct of public bidding and resorting to direct contracting. Instead, the Information faulted them for resorting to direct contracting even without a certification from the DTI, it said.

The court said “nowhere in the law… does it state that such certification needs to be secured from the DTI.”

“While red flags hovering over the Bitaog procurement are certainly observable, it cannot be said by this Court that the alternate certification issued by the Provincial Agriculturist is not sufficient compliance to the requirement that no other dealers/retailers of Bitaog seedlings exist or that a suitable substitute can be obtained at more advantageous terms to the government,” it also said.

The court declared it was easy to make a “sweeping declaration” that unwarranted benefit was given to Perlas Seed Growers since there was no public bidding conducted.

However, “the required substantiation of the factum probans (statement of facts) obliges the Court to make a more careful calibration of the evidence before it,” it stressed.

The decision was written by Second Division Chairperson Oscar C. Herrera Jr. with the concurrence of Associate Justices Michael Frederick L. Musngi and Bayani H. Jacinto.

 
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