Ex-Iloilo solon asks court to defer trial over ghost cellphones purchase
Former Iloilo Rep. Judy Syjuco has asked the Sandiganbayan to suspend its proceedings on her malversation through falsification and graft cases over the alleged ghost purchase of 1,582 units of Nokia 1100 cellphones.
Syjuco filed the motion to suspend proceedings following the Sandiganbayan Third Division’s finding of probable cause to try her for the criminal charges.
The wife of former Technical Education and Skills Development Authority chief Augusto Syjuco, the former lawmaker said her cases should be suspended too after the Sandiganbayan in a March 1 resolution ordered the Ombudsman to conduct its preliminary investigation on her co-accused Jonathan Ng, owner of West Island Beverages Distributor (West Island) and alleged favored supplier of the ghost cellphones.
Syjuco said her trial should be suspended too especially because Ng’s alleged participation in the alleged crime is vital in the charges against her.
While Syjuco was accused of causing undue injury to government in procuring the ghost cellphones without public bidding, and of malversing public funds, Ng was accused of receiving P5,964,859.09 as payment despite the ghost deliveries of the said cellphones.
Syjuco said should the Ombudsman find no probable cause against Ng, his “absolution… fatally undermines the Informations” against her, too.
“Consequently, the outcome of the preliminary investigation concerning accused Ng can affect the charges against accused Syjuco. If the Office of the Ombudsman determines that there is no probable cause to hold Ng liable… then the informations against Syjuco can no longer stand,” Syjuco said through her lawyers.
Syjuco said it is only a “matter of logic” that the court proceedings be suspended pending the Ombudsman’s preliminary investigation on Ng.
In a Feb. 27 resolution, the anti-graft court Third Division said it found probable cause to try Syjuco and the following officials – Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) Chairman Domingo Reyes, Jr., BAC Vice-Chairman Elmer Soneja and BAC members Director Rebecca Cacatian, Director Ildefonso Patdu, Jr., Legal Officer Geronimo Quintos and Director Venancio Santidad, DOTC Inspector Marcelo Desiderio, Jr., DOTC Technical Inspector Danilo Dela Rosa, storekeeper Antonio Cruz, and Ng.
“The Court finds substantial basis to support the finding of probable cause in these cases and the consequent issuance of warrants of arrest against the accused-movants and their co-accused and to hold them for trial,” the court said.
The Sandiganbayan said the records in the case showed that the accused are probably guilty of the crime.
Records showed that Syjuco in 2004 wrote to the late Transportation Secretary Leandro Mendoza to procure directly with West Island 1,582 units of Nokia 1100 phone kits at P3,950 per unit amounting to a total of P6,248,900.
But the Ombudsman found that there was no delivery of the said phone kits, the court noted.
“Based on the above-mentioned circumstances appearing in the record of these cases, the Court finds that the accused- movants are probably guilty of the crimes charged; hence, they must be arrested and brought to trial,” the court said.
The court ordered the issuance of an arrest warrant except for Syjuco, who had posted bail.
The resolution was penned by Presiding Justice Amparo Cabotaje Tang and concurred by Associate Justices Sarah Jane Fernandez and Bernelito Fernandez.
Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales in 2015 approved the filing of malversation and graft charges against the officials for the 2004 ghost deliveries of cellular phones.
The Ombudsman said the respondents released the funds to Ng even though West Island is a mere distributor of Smart Value Credits and therefore not an authorized supplier of cellular phones.
The officials also resorted to direct contracting even when there was no necessity for it, the Ombudsman said, noting that the procurement law requires public bidding as the rule and alternative modes may only be resorted in exceptional cases.
The Ombudsman also noted that Ng is president of Nation Bank, Inc. where respondent Syjuco’s sons and Flame Property Holdings are stockholders. Respondent and her husband former Iloilo Rep. Syjuco are stockholders of Flame Property Holdings.
Ombudsman Morales said that “the confluence of facts and evidence will show that respondents conspired with each other through seemingly separate but collaborative acts to defraud the government of P6,248,900.”
The criminal charges against Transportation secretary Mendoza were dismissed by the Ombudsman due to his death. IDL
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