Sandiganbayan nixes bid of 2 ex-Iloilo execs to reverse graft ruling
MANILA, Philippines — The Sandiganbayan has denied the motions for reconsideration filed by two former Iloilo provincial government officers who were convicted for graft in relation to an anomalous laptop computer purchase.
In a resolution dated November 25, 2020, the Sandiganbayan’s Seventh Division junked the separate motions filed by former Iloilo provincial administrator Manuel Mejorada and former Iloilo provincial general services office chief Ramie Salcedo — both were accused of conniving with a company to provide the provincial government with a laptop computer.
In its ruling, the anti-graft court stated that Seven Seven Trading, which was accepted by Mejorada and Salcedo as the lone bidder for the project, delivered a laptop computer that was different from what the provincial government had ordered. Instead of an Acer Aspire laptop worth P99,000, Seven Seven Trading delivered an Acer Travelmate worth P59,900.
Mejorada reiterated in his motion for reconsideration that he cannot be convicted for graft on the basis that he either acted with partiality or gave unwarranted benefits to Seven Seven Trading since the Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) only recommends entities for the granting of a contract.
The Sandiganbayan however reminded Mejorada that they were not convicted because the BAC erroneously awarded the project to Seven Seven Trading, but because the BAC — which Mejorada chaired — allowed Seven Seven Trading to be the lone bidder even if it was not a laptop seller but a mere middleman.
“While accused repeatedly, but erroneously, refers to the BAC’s ‘awarding’ of the project to The Seven Seven Trading as the basis of the charge against him and his eventual conviction, a simple reading of the Decision will show that the Court did not convict him based on the BAC’s ‘award’ of the contract to The Seven Seven Trading,” the resolution said.
“The Decision clearly convicted the accused, as chairperson and member of the BAC, for considering The Seven Seven Trading as lone bidder, no withstanding the latter’s ineligibility to bid,” it added.
Prior to the Sandiganbayan’s resolution of the case, Mejorada claimed that only he and Salcedo were indicted because of the alleged vindictiveness of Senate Majority Floor Leader Franklin Drilon.
Drilon, who hails from Iloilo, filed a libel case against Mejorada who also is a blogger, for his allegations of corruption against the senator. In 2019, the Supreme Court affirmed Mejorada’s conviction for his social media posts against Drilon.
Mejorada still has a pending arrest order in connection with the libel case filed by Drilon.
Meanwhile, the Sandiganbayan also reiterated that the filing of complaints is not their responsibility, but that of the Office of the Ombudsman — a matter the anti-graft court cannot interfere with.
“As for accused Salcedo and Mejorada’s dissatisfaction with the Ombudsman’s decision to indict just the two of them out of the six (6) BAC members […] we reiterate the well-established policy in this jurisdiction that the courts will not interfere with the prosecutorial powers granted to the Ombudsman by no less than the Constitution,” the Seventh Division stressed.
With this resolution, the penalties prescribed by Sandiganbayan remains, which means that both Mejorada and Salcedo face imprisonment of from six years and one month to eight years while being perpetually disqualified from holding public office.
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