Corruption in the Philippines

Ex-Navy officer convicted of graft committed 32 years ago

Rappler.com
Ex-Navy officer convicted of graft committed 32 years ago
State auditors discovered that P54 million worth of medicines and medical supplies turned out to be ghost purchases

MANILA, Philippines – Thirty-two years ago, then-Philippine Navy procurement officer and requisitioner Gilmer Batestil signed purchase orders and disbursement vouchers for P54 million worth of medicines and medical supplies. 

A special audit conducted by the Commission on Audit (COA) in 1994 discovered that those turned out to be ghost purchases. 

Now, Batestil has been convicted by the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan of 20 counts of malversation of public funds and 16 counts of graft for these transactions. 

For every count of malversation of public funds, Batestil is sentenced to 12 to 18 years in prison; for every count of graft, 6 to 10 years. He is disqualified from holding public office for life, and is fined P17.094 million – the equivalent to the malversed amount , which will earn an interest of 6% every year once the decision becomes final and until it is fully satisfied.

Also convicted by the Sandiganbayan Third Division were: 

  • Erina Castillo, special accountable officer for the Bonifacio Naval Station, 1 count of graft
  • Edna Gianan, private supplier from ERG Marketing, 9 counts of malversation and 5 counts of graft. She is fined P7.7 million, subject to the same interest rate and terms as Batestil
  • Victoriano Chua, private supplier from Intercon Trading, 4 counts of graft

The 544-page ruling, promulgated on September 16, was penned by Presiding Justice Amparo Cabotaje-Tang. Associate justices Bernelito Fernandez and Ronald Moreno concurred.

Originally, 45 Navy officers, employees, and private individuals were charged over these anomalous transactions. In the course of the trial, 13 of the accused died, including vice admiral Mariano Dumancas Jr., who was the Navy’s flag officer in command, and colonel Antonio Morga, who chaired the Navy’s medical acceptance committee.

The Sandiganbayan has also ordered the arrest of captain Walter Briones Jr., then-commander of the naval services, and 12 private defendants. 

Splitting orders, unaccounted purchases

Jeremia Lagunda, who led the COA’s special audit team in 1994, stood as the prosecution’s principal witness. 

She testified on the following: 

  • Transactions worth P85.85 million in 1990 and 1991, and a check payment amounting to P67.64 million in 1992, were paid for using funds obligated in 1984 and 1985. Those funds should have been reverted to the National Treasury the year after they were not utilized. 
  • The orders were split into amounts below P1 million, so they wouldn’t need the review and approval of higher-ups in the Navy. The transactions, with the same supplies, quantities, and amounts, were made on dates close to each other.
  • Suppliers were paid P53,998,124, and encashed the checks for medicines and medical supplies, even if there was no proof these were delivered.

“Here, the acts of accused Batestil in signing the subject POs and DVs and the acts of accused Gianan in signing the POs and DVs and thereafter encashing the checks show the concurrence of will and unity of purpose between the said accused in defrauding the government,” the anti-graft court said. – Rappler.com

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