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Ex-Camarines Norte mayor gets 14 years for graft

MANILA, Philippines — A former mayor of Daet, Camarines Norte has been sentenced to up to 14 years in prison for the unlawful payment of P1 million in price adjustment claim to the contractor of the town’s public market.

Tito Sarion was found guilty of graft and malversation of public funds, the Sandiganbayan Third Division said in a 50-page decision released yesterday.

Sarion was sentenced to a  maximum of eight years in  prison for graft and six years for malversation.

He was also ordered to return P1 million to the municipal government and pay another P1 million to the court.

The anti-graft court said Sarion unlawfully approved the payment to Markbilt Construction to build phase II of the Daet public market in April 2008.

Based on the complaint filed by the Office of the Ombudsman in 2011, Sarion approved the payment without complying with certain requirements.

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“Markbilt is not entitled to payment for contract price escalation in the absence of a GPPB (Government Procurement Policy Board) approval...and absence of a NEDA (National Economic and Development Authority) determination of extraordinary circumstances to justify the contract price escalation,” the decision penned by Associate Justice Sarah Jane Fernandez read.

Sandiganbayan Presiding Justice Amparo Cabotaje-Tang and Associate Justice Bernelito Fernandez concurred with the ruling.

The court found no merit in Sarion’s claim that he was not privy to the requirements in the payment of price escalation claims, which is allowed under Section 61 of Republic Act 9184 or the Government Procurement Reform Act.

“Sarion, who admitted that it was his first time to encounter a request for payment of a price escalation claim, did not bother to determine if the requirements for payment were complied with and if Markbilt was entitled to payment,” the court said.

The court said Sarion approved the disbursement voucher ”blindly relying on the signatures of his subordinates.”

”Clearly, the omissions and actuations of accused Sarion were evidence of gross inexcusable negligence in the performance of his duties,” the court said.

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