Special Report on the Economy

Sereno’s choice of vehicle tantamount to graft, solon says

CHIEF Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno’s purchase of a Toyota Land Cruiser as her official vehicle could constitute graft, a lawmaker said Wednesday.

Rep. Eugene Michael de Vera said “branding” or specifying the brand of a bid subject was prohibited under Section 18 of Republic Act 9184 or the Government Procurement Act.

Maliwanag po ‘yan, kapag may instruction na Land Cruiser yung bibilhin, papasa na ‘yan sa RA 3019, influencing or persuading a lower officer to enter into a wrong contract,” De Vera said during the impeachment proceedings by the House committee on justice led by Rep. Reynaldo Umali.

De Vera said the P6-million budget that the high court allocated for the purchase of vehicles was specifically meant for the purchase of a Toyota Land Cruiser.

But lawyer Maria Carina Cunanan, procurement head and assistant chief of the high court’s administrative services, took the cudgels for Sereno and said it was not Sereno’s office that requested the brand.

“It was already predetermined, your honor,” Cunanan said.  

She said there was an “instruction” from Sereno’s office to acquire a vehicle for the chief justice that would suit her  security needs.

“When we prepare the procurement plan, we issue letters to the different offices to tell the procurement committee what their needs are for the incoming year. Since 2014 up to 2016, the procurement of a vehicle for the Chief Justice has always been included because when she was appointed, she never requested for one,” Cunanan said.

Cunanan said the Procurement Planning Committee  asked the office of the Chief Justice of the preferred brand of vehicle, prompting “the  Office of the Chief Justice [to specifically say a] ‘Land Cruiser.’”

Sereno’s office allegedly originally requested a Suburban, but was denied due to lack of funds to acquire the luxury vehicle.

Cunanan said there was a prior directive before the purchase of the vehicle through one of the members of the Procurement Planning Committee, whom she identified as lawyer Michael Ocampo, to consider the type of vehicle to be issued to Sereno.

“We had to ask the office of the end user what vehicle she would prefer in the event that we would procure a vehicle. So it was them who said Land Cruiser,” Cunanan said.

House Majority Floor Leader Rodolfo Fariñas said the procurement law prohibits “branding.”

He said the law only provides specifications in the notice of purchase, like vehicles, to be fair to other brands.  

“When you procure, you do not give a brand to ensure fairness.  You should all specify the details, but not the brand,” Fariñas said.


Topics: CJ Sereno , impeachment hearing , Supreme Court
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