The Office of the Ombudsman has found sufficient grounds to indict acting National Printing Office director Emmanuel Andaya and five other NPO bidding committee officials on graft charges for failing to bid out a contract to print accountable forms for the Cebu provincial treasurer’s office.
Andaya and NPO officials Sylvia Banda (chief administrative officer), Josefina S.
Samson and Antonio V. Sillona (printing operations head), Bernadette T. Lagumen (budget officer), and Ma. Gracia L. Enriquez (printing operations assistant chief) will be charged at the Sandiganbayan for violations of the procurement law and antigraft law.
The case stemmed from a complaint filed by Guillermo Sylianteng, a private printer, who accused the NPO of skipping the mandatory bidding process and tapping a private contractor, JI Printers, to provide accountable forms to the Cebu treasurer’s office.
Sylianteng claimed that the NPO fabricated an emergency situation to justify the award to JI Printers. He said the NPO had enough supply of these items that were bought at a much lower price than those provided by JI Printers. He said the Cebu government suffered a loss of P738,400 from the allegedly overpriced accountable forms.
NPO claimed in its defense that it was “overloaded” when the Cebu treasurer’s office submitted the order for accountable forms and that there was a real danger of possible interruption in government service.
It accused Sylianteng of having an “ax to grind” against the NPO. Sylianteng is the owner of Ready Forms Inc. which was slapped with a one-year suspension and then blacklisted from government bidding by the NPO.
According to Blesilda T. Ouano, graft and investigation and prosecution officer at the
Ombudsman, Andaya and the five other NPO officials “may be reasonably considered to have displayed gross inexcusable negligence or manifest partiality” for JI Printers which “enjoyed unwarranted benefit, cornering a government contract, through the wrongful acts of public respondents without the benefit of a public bidding.”
The Ombudsman’s order to indict Andaya and other NPO officials came amid the furor over the NPO’s decision to disqualify two of the three bidders for the P780-million contract to print 55 million ballots for the 2013 elections. The contract was awarded to the last remaining bidder, Holy Family Printing Corp., despite allegations that it too should have been disqualified for not meeting the bidding requirements.
The two disqualified bidders were Smartmatic-Total Information Management (TIM) and a consortium that included a subsidiary of Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. (PLDT).
Saying losers always complain, Commission on Elections chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. on Thursday defended the NPO’s award of the P780-million ballot-printing contract to Holy Family Printing Corp. and its partner, Canon Marketing Philippines.
Brillantes said he saw nothing irregular in the NPO decision to award the contract to Holy Family.
“If there were (irregularities), then we would have vetoed it,” he said.
“And we’ve checked (Holy Family’s) background. They filed requirements and they’ve been joining NPO biddings for a long time,” he added.
No cash out yet
He said the poll body has yet to pay for the job. No cash has been released, he said.
Brillantes said Holy Family’s ballots did fail in the initial tests using the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines but a “retest” was conducted and they passed.
“We used 1,000 (ballots) and they got it perfect based on the final report to us,” he said.
Smartmatic Phil. president Cesar Flores, who has accused the NPO of favoring Holy Family, said he was worried that Smartmatic’s PCOS machines might be blamed if the ballots are rejected.
Brillantes dismissed Flores’ misgivings. “Are you worried? I’m not worried. We have a report. I don’t know why many people are worrying about this when we are the ones who have (the responsibility). Not them,” he said.
“A bidding will always have critics. Losers do that. Only God knows if there’s going to be a problem but I don’t think that there will be one,” he said.