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Lucena ex-mayor to appeal Sandiganbayan ‘unfair’ conviction

Ramon Talaga Jr., former Lucena mayor and husband of ousted Mayor Barbara Talaga, talks to reporters in his wife’s office. DELFIN T. MALLARI JR. / INQUIRER SOUTHERN LUZON file photo

LUCENA CITY–Former Lucena Mayor Ramon Talaga Jr. said his lawyer will file a motion for reconsideration concerning the Sandiganbayan decision sentencing him to six years up to eight years in prison with perpetual disqualification from holding public office.

The Sandiganbayan decision was in connection with an alleged anomalous P36-million computerization project in 2002 during Talaga’s term.

“This case is still far from over,” Talaga said in a phone interview on Thursday.

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The former mayor said he will bring the case up to the Supreme Court to challenge and correct the “unfair and politically motivated decision” of the Sandiganbayan.

“To my political detractors, they can rejoice if I’m already inside the prison. But I can still stroll around and have a drink,” a laughing Talaga said.

In a 74-page decision penned by Associate Justice Sarah Jane T. Fernandez and promulgated on Oct. 20, the Sandiganbayan’s Third Division ruled that Talaga along with Ofelia Garcia, former city government planning and development officer and then-chair of the of the Technical Evaluation Committee, former budget officer Ester Matibag and former assistant treasurer Mercedita Capulong, both members of the awards committee had violated Republic Act (RA) 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

The decision was concurred in by Presiding Justice Amparo M. Cabotaje-Tang and Associate Justice

Bernelito M. Fernandez.

The case stemmed from the awarding of a P36-million contract to IT firm Amellar Solutions for a revenue generation system computerization project in 2002, which allegedly done without conducting the required competitive public bidding procedure.

The court said the resort to limited source bidding lacks valid justification. It also ruled that Amellar failed to comply with the technical requirements for the project.

The court also meted the same prison term and of perpetual disqualification from holding any other public office to Garcia, Matibag and Capulong.

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But the Sandigabayan acquitted Roderick Abella, Ma. Prances Pelobello, Dennis Peter Lopinac and Matias Soriano for the failure of the prosecution to prove their guilt beyond reasonable doubt, which

surprised Talaga.

“They were all tasked to study the project. Mine is only ministerial,” he argued.

Last month, the Sandiganbayan Fourth Division has acquitted Talaga of graft over his approval of a bingo gaming operator’s franchise allegedly out of gratitude for the help he got in surviving a recall election.

In a 16-page decision dated Oct. 6, the court said the Office of the Ombudsman failed to prove there was a conspiracy between Talaga and nine city councilors in enacting Ordinance No. 1963, which in June

2000 granted Jose Sy Bang a local franchise to operate his bingo business. /jpv

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Ex-Lucena mayor acquitted of graft over bingo franchise approval

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TAGS: former mayor, lucena, political, Regions, Sandiganbayan
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