Ex-Davao del Sur governor, 5 others get 24 years for graft
MANILA, Philippines – The Sandiganbayan found ex-Davao del Sur governor Benjamin Bautista Jr and 5 other former provincial officials guilty of 4 counts of graft over the purchase of 5 service vehicles in 2003.
In a 17-page decision penned by Associate Justice Rafael Lagos and released on Friday, March 4, the First Division of the anti-graft court sentenced the 6 former officials to 24 years and 4 months in jail. They are also perpetually barred from holding public office.
Aside from Bautista, also convicted were provincial accountant Richard Martel, general services officer Allan Putong, treasurer Abel Guiñares, budget officer Victoria Mier, and Edgar Gan of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan.
Bautista is said to be running for vice mayor in one municipality under the Liberal Party.
Prosecutors presented evidence showing the purchase of motor vehicles amounting to P5.6 million ($120,000)* in a span of 6 months in 2003.
These vehicles include two Toyota Hilux 4x4 pickups worth P2.5 million ($53,500) in January, one Mitsubishi L300 Exceed van worth P878,919.50 ($18,800) in February, and two Ford Ranger XLT 4x4 pickups worth P1 million ($21,400) and P1.218 million ($26,000) respectively in July.
Prosecutors said the vehicles were bought without public bidding, and were not even part of the annual procurement program of the Davao del Sur government.
Martel, Guiñares, Mier, and Gan were all members of the provincial Bids and Awards Committee that approved the purchase.
The provincial officials claimed that they acquired the vehicles from exclusive distributors, but the court rejected this, citing the certifications issued by both Toyota-Davao and Ford-Davao.
"The evidence clearly point out that the 5 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.
The anti-graft court added that the accused were aware of the existence of other vehicle dealerships as they previously purchased from Mitsubishi and Isuzu. But for the 2003 purchases, the government officials specifically identified the brands and types of vehicles they wanted.
"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. – Rappler.com
*$1 = P46