Ex-Batangas mayor gets 6-10 years over anomalous computer deal
MANILA, Philippines – The anti-graft court Sandiganbayan has convicted former Lemery mayor Raul Bendaña of Batangas of graft and sentenced him to 6 to 10 years' imprisonment over an anomalous P8.8-million procurement deal in 2004.
In its decision promulgated on January 27 and released to media on Tuesday, February 7, the Sandiganbayan's Fourth Division found Bendaña "guilty beyond reasonable doubt" for giving unwarranted benefits to a computer company that supplied units to the Lemery municipal hall's automated tax system.
Associate Justice Geraldine Faith Econg penned the decision, with concurring opinions from Associate Justices Alex Quiroz and Reynaldo Cruz.
The charges stemmed from 2004 procurement of the Lemery municipal government. Bendaña, then Lemery mayor, entered into a direct contract with Amellar Solutions for the purchase of computers worth P8,188,737, for the municipal government's tax revenue generation system.
Prosecutors found that there was no competitive bidding and that the direct contract violated the procurement law.
Bendaña was arraigned on February 8, 2010.
The court noted that the tax computerization program of the municipal government was, in fact, an “unsolicited project proposal” of Amellar Solutions. Amellar’s Manuel Tabunda pitched the project to Bendaña in 2002.
Vouching for the independence of the project, Bendaña argued then that the municipal government conducted its own feasibility study. However, the court noted, the first page of the study is similar to the first page of the project proposal submitted by Amellar Solutions.
Bendaña also created a Technical Evaluation Committee on Computerization (TECC) tasked to prepare cost estimates and assist in pre-qualification of suppliers.
“But what is perplexing is that the TECC was able to submit on the same day that it was constituted the report required of it. The only conclusion that can be gathered is that the report was already prepared even before the establishment of the TECC,” the court said.
The timeline of the project also implies partiality, according to the decision.
It was also discovered that Bendaña entered into a contract with Amellar on September 10, 2004, but the Sangguniang Bayan passed the ordinance stating the appropriation cost one month after the contract, on October 6, 2004.
The Sangguniang Bayan’s ordinance is required under the procurement law.
The court added that on October 4, 2004, or two days before the ordinance was passed, receipts showed that computers were already delivered.
“Partiality or bias is evident in the accused’s act of signing the agreement with Amellar Solutions even if the treasurer has not yet issued a certificate that the funds are available and even if there is yet no ordinance appropriating the project cost,” the anti-graft court said.
It added: “He had a dishonest purpose, ill will, or ulterior motive to favor Amellar Solutions and the compliance of the certificate of availability of funds and the appropriation ordinance are mere steps to lend a credence of legality in the transaction.”
Bendana is sentenced to a minimum of 6 years and one month and maximum of 10 years, and perpetual disqualification from holding public office. – Rappler.com