Court finds probable cause to try N. Cotabato gov Mendoza for graft
The Sandiganbayan First Division has found probable cause to try Northern Cotabato Governor Emmylou Taliño-Mendoza for graft over the anomalous procurement of diesel purchased from her mother’s gas station.
But the court no longer issued an arrest warrant because Mendoza last Friday had already posted her P90,000 bail bond for three counts of graft or P30,000 for each count.
The court in a resolution dated April 28 had already found probable cause against Mendoza but it took the resolution back after Mendoza filed her motion for judicial determination of probable cause, thus mooting the said resolution.
Mendoza in her motion for judicial determination of probable cause said her plea is in the form of a motion for reconsideration on the court’s finding of basis to try her for graft.
In its resolution promulgated on Wednesday, the court said it has denied Mendoza’s motion because “the accused has not advanced any ground or argument sufficient to warrant a reconsideration of the court’s previous ruling.”
“The court has found that there is indeed probable cause to hold the accused for trial for violation of Section 3(e) of the Republic Act 3019,” the court said.
In her statement indicting Mendoza, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales said Mendoza authorized the release of P2.4 million from the provincial funds to pay for 49,526.72 liters of fuel used for one road grader and four dump trucks utilized during the two-day road rehabilitation projects.
But no public bidding was conducted, and instead the provincial government directly contracted for fuel with the gas station owned by her mother.
Mendoza said it was only the Taliño Shell Station which was “willing to accommodate the credit term requested by the provincial government.”
But Morales said “there was no compelling justification for dispensing with the requirement of public bidding.”
The Ombudsman said “the great disparity between the estimated 552 liters of diesel actually consumed for the two-day road maintenance project in Magpet vis-à-vis the 20,833 liters actually paid for, is proof that the fuel-purchase transaction is illegal and that this transaction is obviously a scheme to pocket government funds.”
“(R)espondent made it appear that the diesel fuel was procured and used in a government project when in truth, only a small portion of the fuel was actually used and the rest was converted to cash for the benefit of those who were involved in the fraudulent transaction,” Morales added.
In her motion, Mendoza denied that she handpicked Taliño Shell Gas Station in the purchase of diesel fuel instead of conducting a public bidding.
She added that Taliño gas station owned by her mother actually offered the most advantageous offer because of the lowest price. It was also the nearest gas station in the area.
Mendoza maintained that she approved the resolution of the Bids and Awards Committee to grant the contract to Taliño gas station in good faith because there were no red flags in the transaction.
In opposing her motion, the prosecution said it was obvious Mendoza gave undue benefit to Taliño gas station because her mother’s gas station was not even the exclusive dealer or manufacturer of diesel fuel in the area.
The prosecution also said Mendoza was aware the contract was awarded to her mother’s gas station because she signed the purchase order.
The court said Mendoza’s motion to dismiss the case for lack of probable cause “lacks merit.”
Under Section 3(e) of the anti-graft law, graft is a criminal act of causing any undue injury to any party, including the Government, or giving any private party any unwarranted benefits, advantage or preference in the discharge of his or her official administrative or judicial functions through manifest partiality, evident bad faith or gross inexcusable negligence.
Governor Mendoza received flak on social media for her sentiments over the bloody Kidapawan farmers’ dispersal.
Mendoza criticized politicians who were donating sacks of rice to the farmer protesters and using North Cotabato as a political “staging ground.”
“Bigla kayong darating, magbibigay ng bigas? Nang-i-insulto ba kayo o namumulitiko kayo?” Mendoza reportedly said.
The police on April 1 fired at the farmer protesters, killing at least three farmers, one of which was shot in close range while raising his hands, and injuring 116 others.
The police fought back with bullets after protesters threw rocks as they blocked the highway to demand rice subsidy and assistance from government.
The violent dispersal raised a flurry of criticisms from netizens against Mendoza for saying the local government was not remiss in providing rice subsidy to farmers.
During the Senate fact-finding hearing in Davao city, Mendoza denied ordering the violent dispersal of farmers, with senators claiming the law does not allow the police to be armed during rally dispersals. CDG
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