Former Navy vice admiral gets 24 years for graft

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The Sandiganbayan convicted retired Vice Admiral Mariano Dumancas of 4 counts of graft and sentenced the former Philippine Navy flag officer to 24 years in prison.

The charges against Dumancas and several others were filed in 2011 after a special audit showed that the Philippine Navy did not hold a public bidding for the procurement of medical supplies from 1991 to 1992 worth P2.31 million.

Dumancas claimed it was an emergency purchase for the troops, but state auditors found there was no need for the procurement since the supplies were only meant to be kept in storage.

The anti-graft court also said it was not "convinced" with the defendants' excuse that they conducted an emergency purchase due to rumors of an impending coup.

"Based on the totality of evidence, the Court finds and so holds that the accused gave unwarranted benefits, advantage or preference to Jerso Marketing, PMS Commercial, Gebtruder Marketing, Dofra Pharmaceuticals, and Roddensers Pharmaceuticals," the Sandiganbayan 1st Division said in a 60-page decision promulgated last Thursday, January 12, and released to media on Tuesday, January 17.

"The medicines were mostly over-the-counter drugs such as paracetamol, amoxicillin, and multivitamins for stock purposes only. The accused (also) failed to comply with the requirement to canvass as least 3 bona fide suppliers," the decision read.

Dumancas earlier argued that he was only relying on the recommendations of his subordinates.

"Dumancas cannot hide behind the mantle of good faith among his subordinates. The circumstances surrounding the transactions warranted that he inquire into the propriety of an emergency purchase instead of the general rule which is public bidding, and check whether or not the supporting documents justified it," said the Sandiganbayan 1st Division.

Other officials convicted

Dumancas' co-accused, former procurement officer Commander Rosendo Roque, was also found guilty of 4 counts of graft and received a 24-year prison sentence.

Commander Ramon Renales, former price monitoring officer, was convicted of 3 counts of graft and will be jailed for 18 years.

Commodore Francisco Tolin, former deputy commandant of the Philippine Coast Guard, and Commander Manuel Ruason, former Philippine Navy assistant chief of staff for logistics, received 6-year jail terms each for one count of graft. 

Captains Walter Briones and Alfredo Penola, the two other Navy officers who are facing two counts of graft over the same anomalous purchase, remain at large.

Private defendant Ben Edulag died during the trial, leading to the dismissal of his cases.

Meanwhile, the 8 counts of graft filed against Commodore Lamberto Torres were dismissed by the Supreme Court on October 5, 2016 after he filed a petition for certiorari, citing violations of due process and his right to speedy disposition of the case.

The case for the 1991-1992 purchase was filed only in 2011. The anti-graft court took more than 5 years to resolve it. – Lian Buan/Rappler.com