Sandiganbayan acquits former envoy to UN Baja in graft case
The Sandiganbayan has acquitted former Philippine Permanent Representative to the United Nations Lauro Baja Jr. in a graft case involving the allegedly excessive $11,000 advance payment for the repair of the government-owned townhouse in New York City in July 2003.
In a 22-page decision, the court’s Fourth Division said Baja and his wife used their personal money for the advance payment of 70 percent of the $15,000 price of the contract with Amazing Construction Corp.
The implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of Presidential Decree No. 1594, the procurement law in effect at the time, stated that the government’s advance payment should only be 15 percent of the total contract price.
PD 1594 was silent on whether it would apply “regardless of source of funds.”
For the court, this implied that government infrastructure contracts “sourced from private funds are beyond the scope of PD 1594 and its IRR.”
The court also said Baja could not be held in bad faith since he still tried to comply with the rules on negotiated contracts by requiring three companies to submit quotations. —Vince F. Nonato
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