Graft raps vs 11 ex-GSIS execs over 'anomalous' project award

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The Office of the Ombudsman has filed graft charges against 11 former Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) officials over the alleged anomalous awarding of a project in 2004.

The Ombudsman filed one count of graft before the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan against former officials Winston Garcia, president; Enriqueta Disuanco, executive vice president for operations; Benjamin Vivas Jr, senior vice president for information technology; and retired Supreme Court Justice Hermogenes Concepcion Jr, chairman of the board of trustees.

The others are former GSIS trustees Elmer Bautista, Fulgencio Factoran, Florino Ibañez, Aida Nocete, Reynaldo Palmiery, Elenita Tumala-Martinez, and Leonora Vasquez-de Jesus.

The Ombudsman said the former GSIS officials took “advantage of their official positions through manifest partiality or evident bad faith or gross inexcusable negligence” by awarding the GSIS eCard project to the Union Bank of the Philippines in May 2004, “without complying with the requirements/procedures” provided by law.

It said the former officials violated Section 3(e) of Republic Act No. 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act. 

The Ombudsman said they also violated Section 49 of the Implementing Rules and Regulations of Republic Act No. 9184, or the Government Procurement  Reform Act, when they awarded the project to Union Bank “despite the fact the closing date for submission of bid proposals has not been closed and prior to the recommendation of the Committee tasked to evaluate the proposals.”

The GSIS describes the eCard  as "by far, the most innovative government-issued identification card today." It is not only a GSIS membership ID Card, but is also a GSIS transactional card, disbursement card, ATM Card, VISA debit card, hospitalization discount card, medicine discount card, and tuition discount card, among others. 

'Why only now?'

In a statement, Garcia expressed confidence that the Sandiganbayan will dismiss the graft case, citing what he believed to be “serious errors” committed by the Ombudsman.

"In their haste to file this case, certain procedural and jurisdictional lapses were committed which can be valid grounds for the immediate dismissal of the case. We are confident that we will be vindicated before an impartial tribunal such as the Sandiganbayan," he said.

Garcia, who is running for Cebu governor next year, also questioned the timing of the case. 

"This case has been languishing at the Office of the Ombudsman for more than 10 years now, and was decided upon only this year, less than a year before the May 2016 elections," he said.

Garcia  is challenging incumbent Liberal Party Governor Hilario Davide III in the provincial race. Another Garcia brother, Pablo John, lost to Davide in 2013.

Garcia noted that the eCard project in question is still the same one being implemented by the GSIS.

When it chose Union Bank for the project in 2004, the GSIS said the bank provided  the best cost-benefit justification to GSIS among the banks that bid for the project. – Rappler.com