THE Office of the Ombudsman on Tuesday indicted Senator Joseph Victor Ejercito for graft and corruption and technical malversation over the questionable procurement of high-powered firearms in February 2008 when he was still mayor of San Juan City.
Ejercito said he was surprised by the Ombudsman’s decision because the person who filed the case against him opted to be anonymous, and because he was very careful about signing documents when he was San Juan mayor.
Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales found probable cause to indict Ejercito and order the filing of charges for technical malversation and violating the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
Also charged for technical malversation were ex-vice mayor Leonardo Celles; ex-city councilors Andoni Carballo, Vincent Pacheco, Angelino Mendoza, Dante Santiago, Rolando Bernardo, Grace Pardines, Domingo Sese, Francis Peralta, Edgardo Soriano, Jannah Ejercito-Surla, Francisco Javier Zamora, Ramon Nakpil and Joseph Christopher Torralba.
Those indicted for violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act were members of the bids and awards committee, including ex-city administrator Ranulfo Dacalos, ex-treasurer Rosalinda Marasigan, ex-city attorney Romualdo de los Santos, budget officer Lorenza Ching and city engineer Danilo Mercardo.
Dacalos, Marasigan, De los Santos, Mercado and accountant Alicia Barazon were also found guilty of misconduct and were ordered suspended without pay for six months.
In February 2008, Ejercito requested the city council for authority to purchase high-powered firearms using the city’s calamity fund.
He said the procurement was “an investment for disaster preparedness.”
The city council passed a city ordinance authorizing Ejercito to acquire firearms for the San Juan police department.
In 2008, the city government purchased three units of model K2 cal. 5.56mm sub-machine guns and 17 units of Daewoo model K1 cal. 5.56mm sub-machines guns worth P2.1million.
The Ombudsman invoked a Budget Department circular that said high-powered firearms are not among the items used for disaster relief.
“More importantly, that there was no declaration placing San Juan under a state of calamity,” the Ombudsman’s order said.
In its resolution, the Ombudsman said there was “a hasty procurement of specific high-powered firearms of a particular brand sans competitive bidding and without any post-qualification, bolstered by bid documents bearing dates earlier than the publication of the invitation to bid, showing that an unwarranted benefit, advantage and preference” was accorded to the supplier.”
Morales said Ejercito “acted in concert with the members of the city council who authorized him to
purchase firearms using the city’s calamity funds paving the way for the application of public funds for a purpose different from the one for which they were originally appropriated by law.”
But Ejercito said he was very careful in 2008 because he was in the opposition and would be prosecuted for any irregularity.
Also on Tuesday, the Ombudsman also ordered the filing of graft charges against former Army general Gaudencio Pangilinan for allegedly splitting a P3.7-million contract into small amounts to avoid public bidding for the construction of a building of the National Bilibid Prison.
“The Office of the Ombudsman found probable cause to file multiple charges against top officials of the Bureau of Corrections [BuCor] for violations of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act [R.A. No. 3019] and Government Procurement Reform Act [R.A. No. 9184],” Morales said in a statement.
Pangilinan became controversial after President Benigno Aquinopromoted him to commander of the Northern Luzon Command, a 3-star position, as a “gift” shortly after Aquino assumed office in 2010.
After his retirement, Pangilinan was appointed by Aquino chief of the Bureau of Corrections.
Morales said former BuCor chief Pangilinan and his former chief administrative officer Ligaya Dador were facing five counts of violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
Pangilinan, and Larry Hari, administrative officer, also face one count of violation of the Government Procurement Reform Act.
Also facing charges are chief of staff Venancio Santidad and representatives of suppliers Grand Potential Press Inc. and Dotgain Solutions, namely Alman Madrid, Lawrence Balolong, Julita Balolong, Alex Del Rosario, Alicia Madrid, Nelson Lee Cheng, Gina Rabancos and Paulino Fernandez, Jr.
“Pangilinan, Dador, Hari and Santidad were also found administratively liable for grave misconduct and were ordered dismissed from the service with perpetual disqualification from reemployment in the government service. In case of separation from the service, the penalty is convertible to a fine equivalent to one year’s salary,” Morales said.
She said investigation found that in 2012, respondents divided and split into four contracts, the project for the construction of the NBP building for the purpose of evading the requirement of public bidding. The P1.4-million infrastructure project was awarded through small value procurement, to preferred suppliers, Grand Potential and Dotgain, which firms are engaged in the printing business.
Morales said investigators also uncovered that during BuCor’s road map launch, Pangilinan and his co-accused spent P2.3 million to cover expenses for food, giant tarpaulins and tents by resorting to an emergency purchase.
“There was no compelling reason to dispense with competitive bidding nor resort to small value procurement,” Morales said.
“There is no evidence that BuCor attempted to ensure the most advantageous price for the government,” she added. With Macon Ramos-Araneta
In October 2015, the Sandiganbayan convicted Santidad, former Department of Transportation and Communication director for procurement, of 21 counts of falsification of public documents in connection with the anomalous use of the Priority Development Assistance Fund of the late Isabela Rep. Antonio Abaya for the procurement of 21 vehicles. With Macon Ramos-Araneta
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