SILAY CITY – The three accused of graft and corruption in relation to the purchase of the P18 million Information and Communication Technology (ICT) project procured in the previous administration pleaded not guilty in an arraignment Monday, April 2.
Those who pleaded not guilty were Mario Torres, Ramon Jison, and Ricardo Ledesma Jr.
The three accused also wrote the appellate collegial court if they can be arraigned in a court located in their city because their physical disabilities could no longer allow them to fly to Sandiganbayan in Quezon City to attend the arraignment proceedings.
Sandiganbayan Second Division Associate Justices Oscar Herrera said the request was granted after they were permitted by the Supreme Court to hold the arraignment in Silay City citing valid health conditions the three accused.
Others accused in the case were already arraigned before. They were former Silay City mayor Jose Montelibano, Jose Raymundo Locsin, Mario Torres, April Grace De Los Reyes, Ignacio Salmingo, Kara Aimee Quevenco, Pepito Hechanova Jr., Alma De La Cruz, Ricardo Ledesma Jr., Sonia Cordero, Rene Roy Pahilanga, Diovanni Guzon, Jose Genaro Estrañero, Macarse Tionko, Armin Paredes, Alore Golez, Vilma Dooma, Jesus Oppus, Gallego, Michael Maravilla, Julieta Cunanan, Warlito Go (deceased) and Salvador Segovia (at-large).
The principal complainant Jose Lindy Chan, who is set to be put on trial, did not show up during the hearing which is why it was reset to April 10 at the Sandiganbayan Second Division in Quezon City.
Meanwhile, lawyer Jovim Entila, counsel of former Silay City councilor Maravilla, said the hearing body was supposed to conduct the arraignment, pre-trial and initial presentation of evidence by the Prosecution.
They conducted the arraignment and pre-trial but were not able to proceed with the presentation of evidence due to the absence of their first witness, Chan.
The court gave the prosecution one last chance to present their principal witness on April 10.
The local government of Silay under Montelibano has entered into a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with the Systems and Plan Integrator Development Corporation (SPIDC) in January 2008 for the ICT Project.
This led to the computerization of the city's major revenue generating operation as financed through a loan agreement with the Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP).
However, the complainant questioned the immediate resort to an alternative mode of procurement by direct contracting, which is in violation of Republic Act 9184, or the Government Procurement Reform Act.
Section 50 of RA 9184 stated that direct contracting may be resorted to only in any of the following conditions: Those sold by an exclusive dealer or manufacturer, which does not have sub-dealers selling at lower prices and for which no suitable substitute can be obtained at more advantageous terms to the government.
The public respondents were meted the penalty of suspension for eight months and one day after being adjudged guilty of conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service by the Ombudsman.