The Sandiganbayan has acquitted former Batangas 4th District Rep. Oscar L. Gozos and seven others of their graft charges in the purchase of P3 million worth of shredder chippers in 2004.
Also acquitted were then Department of Agriculture (DA) Regional Executive Director Dennis B. Araullo and Regional Field Unit IV employees Raymundo E. Braganza, Grover L. Dino, Lourdes T. Imperial, Abelardo Bragas, Felix I. Ramos, and Ofelia C. Montilla.
They were charged with graft for purchasing through direct contracting four units of Shredder Chipper 15HP on April 12, 2004 from LCV Design and Fabrication Corporation (LCV) with funds taken from the Farm Input Fund for the Ginintuang Masaganang Ani Program of the Department of Agriculture (DA).
In its decision, the Sandiganbayan said that direct contracting is allowed in government procurement of “goods of proprietary nature, which can be obtained only from the proprietary source” or when “trade secrets and copyrights prohibit others from manufacturing the same.”
It said the Intellectual Property Office granted LCV Design a Utility Model Registration which was valid from the time of its application on Feb. 20, 2004. The registration gave LCV Design the right to prohibit an unauthorized person or entity from making, using, selling, or importing the subject Tornado Shredder/Chipper without authority, it said.
“In this case, the prosecution failed to show that LCV Design was not an exclusive dealer or manufacturer. The prosecution failed to show any other entity that manufactures the same or similar machinery that can substitute the Tornado Shredder/Chipper during the time of the procurement,” the decision stated.
“Likewise, the prosecution failed to show that the Tornado machine can be purchased from other sub-dealers selling at lower prices,” it added.
The case against DA Regional Field Unit IV employees Gregorio P. Sangalang and Balagtas J. Torres, has been ordered archived until they are brought to the jurisdiction of the court.
The decision was written by Associate Justice Michael Frederick L. Musngi with the concurrence of Associate Justices Zaldy V. Trespeses, Bayani H. Jacinto, and Maryann E. Corpus-Mañalac. Second Division Chairperson Oscar C. Herrera dissented.