Sandigan affirms ex-PCG execs’ conviction for phone card graft

Janvic Mateo - The Philippine Star
Sandigan affirms ex-PCG execs� conviction for phone card graft
STAR / File

MANILA, Philippines — The Sandiganbayan has affirmed the conviction of four former officials of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) in cases related to the irregular procurement of phone cards worth more than P6 million in 2014.

In a 13-page resolution, the anti-graft court’s special second division denied the motions for reconsideration filed by former PCG deputy chiefs Cdr. Joselito Quintas (three counts), Capt. Ramon Lopez (two counts), Cdr. William Arquero (one count) and Cdr. Rommel Supangan (one count).

The four were convicted last Jan. 13 for violating Republic Act 9184 or the Government Procurement Reform Act.

Prosecutors accused the former officers of violating the procurement law in seven different instances when they split into several transactions one single request for procurement of mobile phone cards.

According to the respondents, they resorted to “shopping” as a form of procurement of the cellular cards as indicated in the PCG’s procurement plan.

Shopping is a form of procurement wherein no public bidding is conducted and at least three price quotations are not obtained from suppliers. This is allowed when there is an unforeseen contingency requiring immediate purchase.

At the time of the transactions, the rules stated that the threshold for procurement via shopping should not exceed P500,000.

But the court noted in its Jan. 13 decision that the contracts were split for the purpose of circumventing this threshold.

It convicted Quintas on three counts, Lopez on two counts as well as Arquero and Supangan on one count each as they acted as special disbursing officers who are claimants of the cash advances.

In their appeal, the four argued that they merely relied on the PCG’s annual procurement plan and that they had no participation in the mode of procurement for the cellular cards. They also maintained that they cannot be held liable for the crime of splitting the contracts and stressed that they acted in good faith as special disbursing officers.

The court, however, said that the accused failed to raise any argument to convince it that the ruling is erroneous or contrary to law.

“As correctly pointed out by the prosecution, the defenses of the accused-movants of good faith should not be considered considering that the offense charged is a violation of a special law and is therefore characterized as mala prohibita, wherein the intent to commit or good faith is immaterial,” read the resolution penned by Associate Justice Arthur Malabaguio.

“The accused-movants failed to raise any substantial arguments, and no cogent reason exists to warrant a reconsideration of the assailed Decision of this Court. It would be a useless ritual for this Court to reiterate and substantiate the grounds relied upon in support of the Decision now subject of the motions for reconsideration,” it added.

Associate Justice Oscar Herrera Jr. and Presiding Justice Amparo Cabotaje-Tang concurred with the ruling, while Associate Justices Michael Frederick Musngi and Bayani Jacinto dissented. –  Elizabeth Marcelo

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