Former tourism secretary Durano, 5 others acquitted over wall calendar graft case

Joseph Felix Mari “Ace” Durano
Joseph Felix Mari “Ace” Durano (Screengrab from Mae Fhel Gom-os video)

THE Supreme Court (SC) dismissed the graft charges brought against former tourism secretary Joseph Felix Mari "Ace" Durano in the Sandiganbayan.

Durano was accused of breaking the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act for his alleged failure to have the P2.7 million worth of wall calendar project in 2009 undergo a public bidding.

In accordance with the Supreme Court's January 22, 2024, ruling, which was made public on May 14, 2024, Durano and the other five defendants in the said project were found not guilty.

“Considering the circumstances in the instant case, the acquittal of Durano et al. is justified. The instant case involves Durano et al. procuring the project with the belief that the subject procurement was covered by the exceptions to the rule requiring public bidding as it involved proprietary rights in the artistic domain,” the SC resolution says.

“Again, other than the mere violation of procurement laws, the prosecution did not present proof beyond reasonable doubt that Durano et al. gave unwarranted benefits, advantages, or preferences through manifest partiality and/or gross inexcusable negligence. There was likewise no allegation or proof that the subject procurement was overpriced. Lastly, there was no allegation or proof that Durano et al. personally benefited from the project,” it added.

According to the SC, the prosecution could not present proof to prove that the accused gave unwarranted benefits, and no one could prove that the procurement was overpriced.

“All told, there is no proof beyond reasonable doubt of the facts and circumstances evincing corrupt intent on the part of Durano et al. Thus, this Court is constrained to rule that the elements of the crime charged were not proven beyond reasonable doubt."

According to the SC, the prosecution nor anybody else could not present proof that the procurement was overpriced.

Aside from Durano, former Tourism undersecretary Oscar Policarpio Palabyab, financial management service director Grace Reyes Yoro, bids and awards committee members Eduardo Alvarez Jarque Jr. and Adriana Mesa Flor, and legal affairs office director IV Evelyn Respicio Cajigal, were also acquitted in the case.

Durano felt relieved that the matter has finally been settled after 15 years.

“I had faith in the SC to see through the baseless accusation,” Durano said in his statement through the Danao Information Office on Wednesday, May 15, 2024.

It can be recalled that on March 22, 2019, the Office of the Ombudsman filed a case against Durano for allegedly conspiring with the DOT officials in the Bids and Awards committee to give unjustified benefits for the "conceptualization and development" of the calendars without going through a formal bidding process.

Durano was taken aback by something after three of his cases were dropped.

He made it clear that every project required by the travel and tourism sector followed the right procedures at the time.

Durano made it clear that all tourism-related projects went through the proper protocols when he was still tourism secretary. (ANV, TPT)

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