5 former DOTC officials found guilty of graft

MANILA. Facade of the Sandiganbayan building.
MANILA. Facade of the Sandiganbayan building.Photo from Wikimedia Commons

THE Sandiganbayan has found five former officials of the then Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) and a businessman guilty of graft over the alleged irregularities in the acquisition of nearly P6 million worth of cellular phones back in 2005.

The anti-graft court sentenced former DOTC officials directors Elmer Soneja, Venancio Santidad, Ildefonso Patdu Jr. and Rebecca Cacatian and legal officer Geronimo Quintos to six years and one month to 10 years of imprisonment, as well as perpetual disqualified them from holding public office for violation to Section 3 (e) of Republic Act (RA) 3019, the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

Also among the respondents is Domingo Samuel Jonathan L. Ng, proprietor of the West Island Beverages Distributor.

Former Iloilo Second District congresswoman Judy Jalbuena Syjuco earlier entered into a plea bargaining agreement with the prosecution and pleaded guilty to the crimes of frauds against the public treasury and failure to render accounts.

Syjuco deposited P5.9 million to the anti-graft court and with the concurrence of the prosecution.

The anti-graft court granted Syjuco's plea and was fined P16,000 with her bail payment returned, and her hold departure order was lifted.

Acquitted by the court were former DOTC official Purificacion Desiderio Jr. and former storekeeper Antonio D. Cruz, while former DOTC assistant secretary Domingo A. Reyes remains at large.

The case stemmed when the DITC bids and awards committee awarded in 2005 to West Island a contract for the purchase 1,482 units of Nokia 1100 cellular phones worth P5,964,859.09 that were intended for its personnel in Western Visayas.

The five convicted former officials were all members of the committee.

“The Court finds accused BAC (Bids and Awards Committee) members Santidad, Quintos, Patdu, Cacatian and Soneja’s brazen disregard of the explicit provisions of the procurement law its implementing rules and regulations and obliviousness to patent irregularities surrounding the subject procurement resulted in the illegal award of the subject contract to accused Ng,” the order read.

“Here, it is undisputed that there was no competitive public bidding. The subject cellular phones were procured through the alternative method of procurement, that is through direct contracting,” it added. (TPM/SunStar Philippines)

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