Sandiganbayan affirms conviction of ex-PNP Chief Verzosa, 5 others in P131-M rubber boats purchase


The Sandiganbayan has affirmed the conviction for graft of former Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Jesus A. Verzosa and five others in the irregular purchase of police rubber boats (PRBs) and outboard motors (OBMs) for P131.55 million in 2009.

Affirmed by the anti-graft court was its June 25, 2021 decision which sentenced Verzosa, former Deputy Director General Benjamin A. Belarmino Jr.; Deputy Director General and bids and awards committee (BAC) head Jefferson P. Soriano; BAC vice-chairman Luizo C. Ticman; Director and BAC member Romeo C. Hilomen; and Chief Superintendent and BAC member Villamor A. Bumanglag to six to eight years imprisonment.

They all filed their motions for reconsideration which were denied by the court.

Verzosa invoked good faith in his motion. As former PNP chief, he said he was tasked at overseeing law enforcement nationwide and was not involved in the "nitty gritty" of the procurement process.

Belarmino, on the other hand, insisted that the court cannot link him as a conspirator in the case on the basis of his membership in the Negotiation Committee on Oct. 23, 2009.

Soriano and Ticman argued that they did not act in bad faith nor did they exercise manifest partiality during the procurement process. They added that there was also no gross inexcusable negligence on their part.

Hilomen maintained that there was nothing irregular or illegal in the separate procurement of the PRBs and OMBs because the National Police Commission Resolution No. 2009-223 did not specify that the procurement be made as a single unit. He added that the resort to negotiated procurement could not be blamed for the non-usability and incompatibility of the PRBs and OBMs.

For his part, Bumanglag said that the totality of the facts arising from the evidence undoubtedly show the absence of conspiracy.

But the anti-graft court was not swayed by their arguments.

"This Court noted that, in the Motions for Reconsideration filed by the accused movants, much of the issues posed are mere reiterations of previous arguments raised. These same issues were already sufficiently and substantially addressed by this Court and further discussions would be, at most, duplications," the Sandiganbayan said.

Associate Justice Bernelito R. Fernandez penned the 23-page resolution dated last July 19 with the concurrence of Presiding Justice Amparo M. Cabotaje-Tang and Associate Justice Ronald B. Moreno.

The rubber boats and outboard motors were purchased from three different suppliers – EnviroAire, Inc., Geneve SA Philippines, and Bay Industrial Philippines Corp.

The equipment purchased were to be used for rescue, relief, and rehabilitation of those who suffered the onslaught of typhoons “Ondoy” and “Pepeng” in September and October 2009, respectively.

Because of the urgent need for the equipment, the accused said they resorted to negotiated procurement with the suppliers and did away with the mandatory public bidding.

The accused purchased 24 units of Apex A-47 A1 rubber boats for P27,960,000 and 93 units of Mercury 60 HP outboard Motor for P44,175,000 from EnviroAire Inc.

They also purchased 41 units of Zodiac FC 470 rubber boats for P47,765,000 from Geneve SA Philippines and 10 units of Loadstar HKS 480 rubber boats for P11,650,000 from Bay Industrial Philippines Corp.

In its decision, the Sandiganbayan said the selected suppliers were incapable to supply the rubber boats and outboard motors as well as to comply with the delivery period.

In fact, the court found that the reason of the accused to resort to negotiated procurement was "unjustified."

It was found that during the opening of the bids for the procurement of 75 units of rubber boats and outboard motors, EnviroAire was not the one which passed the eligibility check. Rather, it was the joint venture of EnviroAire and Stoneworks Specialist International, Inc. that passed the eligibility tests, it said.

In the case of Bay Industrial Philippines, the court found that it was in existence for less than a year and had a paid-up capital of less than P500,000 when it was awarded the supply contract for the rubber boats.

It also said that Geneve SA Philippines did not pass the eligibility requirements, and the Certificate of Existence dated Sept. 3, 2009 executed by its General Manager, Senen I. Arabaca, did not show that it had completed a contract for the supply and delivery of rubber boats and outboard motors.

"It must be underscored that, at the time the negotiated procurement was resorted to by the accused, the public bidding was already in its post-qualification stage," the anti-graft court said.

Because of the separate procurement done by the accused, the court said there was "functional incompatibility" of the rubber boats and outboard motors.

"Clearly, the procured rubber boats and outboard motors were not compatible with each other and their stability and control were doubtful when operated, resulting in non-compliance with the speed requirement," the court said.

"Consequently, the procured rubber boats and outboard motors were not used by the end-users for their intended purposes," it added.