Three former officials of the Orani Water District (OWD) in Bataan have been convicted of graft by the Sandiganbayan for the appointment of a disqualified board member in 2010.
Found guilty of violating Section 3(e) of Republic Act No. 3019, the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, were Edmund Lee Castañeda, Teresa Santos Santos, and Reynaldo Torres Ibe Jr.
They were sentenced to a prison term ranging from six to eight years with perpetual disqualification from holding public office.
Former OWD general manager Benigno Peña Andres was acquitted for failure of the prosecution to prove his guilt beyond reasonable doubt. The case against co-accused, Pagasa E. Pascual, had been dismissed on account of her death.
On Nov. 15, 2010, the accused OWD officials issued Board Resolution No. 19 appointing Ibe Jr. as the fifth member of the board of directors despite his temporary disqualification from holding a government post since he ran and lost in the May 2010 local elections.
The prosecution told the Sandiganbayan that with Ibe Jr.’s appointment, undue injury was caused to the government in the amount of P274,000, which represented the per diems and allowances he received.
It said that Ibe Jr. received the per diems and allowances despite being informed by the Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA) as early as March 1, 2011 that his appointment was null and void from the beginning.
In its decision, the Sandiganbayan said the accused should have inquired more about Ibe Jr.'s qualifications and disqualifications. "The accused public officers cannot claim they are unfamiliar with the laws because they are just ordinary citizens and are not lawyers," it said.
It said that it was unconvinced that Ibe Jr. was not aware of the law on temporary disqualification "as he insisted on his own interpretation."
"To the mind of the Court, the prohibition is clear and there is no room for interpretation," it also said.
Fifth Division Chairperson Rafael R. Lagos wrote the 43-page decision with the concurrence of Associate Justices Maria Theresa V. Mendoza-Arcega and Maryann E. Corpus Mañalac.
TAGS: #Sandiganbayan #Orani Water District