Ex-Daet mayor gets 8 to 14 years over market contract price hike
The Sandiganbayan has sentenced former Daet, Camarines Norte, Mayor Tito Sarion to eight years and five months to a maximum of 14 years’ imprisonment over the anomalous increase in the contract price for the construction of a public market in 2008.
In a 50-page decision dated Sept. 29, the court’s Third Division also ordered Sarion to return the P1 million that he was found to have unlawfully released to Markbilt Construction on April 24, 2008.
The court found him guilty of one count each of malversation of public funds and violation of Section 3(e) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
It said Markbilt was not entitled to the payment for the Daet Public Market Phase II because it was released despite the lack of a certificate of availability of public funds.
The “price escalation” of the contract (which are allowed under extraordinary circumstances) was also not approved by the Government Procurement Policy Board or determined to be proper by the National Economic and Development Authority.
The court noted that Sarion only endorsed Markbilt’s request for the GPPB’s approval in a Nov. 10, 2009 letter, only after the payment was already made and even disallowed by the Commission on Audit.
NEDA and its Bicol regional office also issued separate certifications in July 2012 regarding the lack of any request concerning the payment.
Sarion claimed he was unaware of the requirement of Section 61 of the Government Procurement Reform Act’ and merely relied on the erroneous legal opinion of the municipal legal officer. The court said this did not excuse him from liability.
“He just approved the disbursement voucher blindly relying on the signatures of his subordinates. Clearly, the omissions and actuations of accused Sarion evince gross inexcusable negligence in the performance of his duties,” the court said.
Besides the imprisonment and the order to indemnify the municipality, the court also meted out a lifetime ban from public office against Sarion and ordered him to pay a fine of another P1 million.
The decision was penned by Associate Justice Sarah Jane T. Fernandez and concurred in by Presiding Justice Amparo M. Cabotaje-Tang and Associate Justice Bernelito R. Fernandez.
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