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By PETER J. G. TABINGO
March 07, 2016
FORMER Davao del Sur governor Benjamin P. Bautista Jr. and five other former provincial officials were found guilty of four counts of graft by the Sandiganbayan in connection with irregularities in the purchase of five service vehicles in 2003.
In a 17-page decision, the graft court’s First Division sentenced the defendants to 24 years and four months in jail with an additional penalty of perpetual disqualification from holding public office.
Court informants said Bautista is running for a vice mayoralty post in one municipality in his province under the administration’s Liberal Party.
Also convicted were provincial accountant Richard T. Martel, general services officer Allan C. Putong, treasurer Abel A. Guiñares, budget officer Victoria G. Mier, and Sangguniang Panlalawigan Edgar C. Gan. Martel, Guiñares, Mier and Gan were all members of the provincial Bids and Awards Committee that approved the purchase.
Associate Justice Rafael R. Lagos penned the decision with Associate Justices Efren de la Cruz and Rodolfo Ponferrada concurring.
According to evidence presented by prosecutors during trial, the accused provincial officials authorized the purchase of the vehicles in a span of six months in 2003. The vehicles are two Toyota Hilux 4x4 pickups worth P2.5 million bought on January 24, one Mitsubishi L300 Exceed van worth P878,919.50 on February 18, one Ford Ranger XLT 4x4 pickup worth P1 million on July 15, and another Ford Ranger XLT 4x4 worth P1.218 million on July 21. None of the purchases were made through public bidding.
In their defense, the provincial officials claimed the vehicles were acquired from exclusive distributors of foreign brands of vehicles but the court swept aside this claim noting that certifications issued by both Toyota Davao Inc. and Ford-Davao made no assertion that they are exclusive distributors.
“The evidence clearly point out that the five vehicles were purchased by the province of Davao without any public bidding as Bautista and the Bids and Awards Committee chose the suppliers through direct purchase route,” the Sandiganbayan said.
Witnesses for the prosecution likewise testified that the procurement of the vehicles were not even included in the annual procurement program of the provincial government.
Even without proof of undue injury to the government, the Sandiganbayan said the failure to comply with public bidding and award of the contract directly to a supplier showed that the vehicle dealers profited from the transactions despite absence of proof that they gave the most beneficial price to the government.
“Thus, it shows some haste in the procurement which ultimately benefited the dealers of the brands. No records were presented to show the urgency for each purchase to justify the procurement of these vehicles,” the court said.
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