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Sandiganbayan affirms graft conviction of ex-DA officials

The Sandiganbayan Sixth Division has affirmed its decision convicting four former officials of the Department of Agriculture (DA) Regional Field Unit XI guilty of graft due to the irregular purchase of water system materials back in 2006.

Regional Executive Director Roger Chio, Regional Technical Director Romulo Palcon, Finance Division Chief Alma Mahinay, and Administrative Officer V Godofredo Ramos had been convicted of violating Section 3(e) of R.A. 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act in a decision penned January 30.

The graft conviction was for the awarding of the contract for water system materials amounting to P2,591,435.40 to PZA Trading back in 2006 without conducting pre-procurement and pre-bid conferences and despite other irregularities in the bidding process.

The accused were implicated because PZA’s bid amount of P2,591,435.40 exceeded the budget of P2,591,435.

Chio, Palcon, Mahinay and Ramos filed motions for reconsideration after being handed a guilty verdict.

Chio said in his motion that the court relied on a single document – the Invitation to Apply for Eligibility and to Bid (IAEB) – when it declared that the approved budget for the contract (ABC) for the project was P2,591,435. However, Chio said that the ABC of a government project is not determined by the IAEB.

He stressed that there is still doubt with regards to the correct value of the ABC.   Chio said he could not have acted with gross inexcusable negligence for not failing to reject PZA Trading’s bid because the difference in the amount of the ABC appearing in the IAEB and those other documents is minuscule at only P.40.

“Such failure to notice the difference was due to mere inadvertence and not willful and intentional,” he argued, adding that it was a result of a typographical error or rounding off.

Meanwhile, Palcon, Mahinay, and Ramos said in their joint motion that the prosecution failed to establish that there were no pre-procurement and pre-bid conferences conducted.

“The absence of the documents pertaining to the pre-bid and pre-procurement conferences in the records of the Office of the Audit Team Leader, COA DA-RFU XI and in those of the BAC Secretariat of DA-RFU XI, does not necessarily lead to the conclusion that no pre-bid and pre-procurement conferences were conducted,” the motion read.

In fact, they said that the prosecution’s failure to establish that all efforts to locate the documents were futile should create doubt in favor of the accused.

However, the anti-graft court found their motions bereft of merit and even said that Chio’s motion and arguments “appear to be nothing but a last-ditch effort to evade liability.”

“The Court may have been inclined to rule that there was no manifest partiality, evident bad faith or gross inexcusable negligence on the part of accused Chio for inadvertently failing to notice the discrepancy in the amounts, had he raised such argument at the outset, and not for the first time in his motion for reconsideration, after the Court had rendered its judgment,” the resolution stated.

The Court added that the discrepancy in the amounts is indeed minuscule, and it is not totally implausible that Chio failed to notice it. However, his and the other accused’s insistence that there was a typographical error in the IAEB “betrays the fact that they knowingly caused the award of the subject contract to PZA in willful disregard of the provisions of R.A. 9184.”

They were sentenced to suffer the indeterminate penalty of imprisonment of six years and one month as minimum to eight years as maximum, with perpetual disqualification from holding public office.

The 14-page resolution was penned by Sixth Division Chairperson Sarah Jane Fernandez with the concurrence of Associate Justices Karl Miranda and Kevin Narce Vivero.

Source: Manila Bulletin (

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