Sandiganbayan dismisses graft case vs ex-DOTC official

MANILA, Philippines – The Sandiganbayan junked graft charges against a former Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) official in relation to alleged procurement irregularities in 2006.

In a six-page resolution penned by Associate Justice Rafael Lagos, the Special First Division of the anti-graft court dismissed the case filed by the Office of the Ombudsman against ex-DOTC Assistant Secretary Lorenzo Formoso III due to lack of probable cause.

The court said that "no evidence exists" against Formoso.

The Office of the Ombudsman, in the case it filed in 2015, alleged that Formoso and Engineer Arthur Ancheta of the Telecommunications Office (TELOF) "gave unwarranted benefits" to a private contractor by awarding a contract worth P24.805 million ($533,801) without going through public bidding.

Ancheta, the prosecutors said, prepared the documentation for the procurement of Excel Switch Equipment for the expansion of the Iloilo Toll Center in 2006. He allegedly endorsed that the item be directly acquired from Advance Solutions Incorporated.

Formoso's approval of Ancheta's recommendation supposedly violated provisions of Republic Act 9184 or the Government Procurement Reform Act.

The Ombudsman added that the transaction between the agency and the private company did not go through the DOTC's Bids and Awards Committee (BAC). The committee's mandate is to review prospective supplies and determine whether the costs of supplies are beneficial to the government. 

Formoso, however, noted that the BAC's participation was not required as the procuring entity for the equipment was the Commission on Information and Communications Technology (CICT).

He added that Advance was the "local exclusive distributor" of the equipment needed for the toll center upgrade.

The anti-graft court affirmed Formoso's claim, saying that there is no required public bidding under the presented circumstances.

"Direct contracting of products of proprietary nature and those sold by exclusive dealership is an accepted alternative method of procurement under RA 9184 without need of public bidding," it added. –

$1 = P47