Court rules: No graft in postal deal
THE SANDIGANBAYAN has acquitted Philippine Postal Corp. (Philpost) president and Postmaster General Antonio de Guzman of graft charges for allegedly entering into a questionable contract with an air transport company in 2004.
In clearing De Guzman, the antigraft court’s Second Division said the contract he entered into with Aboitiz One Inc. for the delivery of mail in Luzon, was not grossly and manifestly disadvantageous to the government.
The charge against De Guzman was based on findings of the Commission on Audit (COA) that the contract with Aboitiz, which charged Philpost P8 for every kilogram of mail, was irregular.
The COA had said that there was no formal written contract between Philpost and Aboitiz, only a letter; that the transaction was not approved by Philpost’s board of directors; that there was no public bidding; and that the price agreed upon was disadvantageous to the government, especially since Air 21 had offered to charge only P4.95 per km of mail.
When the contract with Aboitiz was entered into, De Guzman was the Philpost officer in charge since then Philpost head Diomedio Villanueva was on leave.
According to the Sandiganbayan, the overprice in the contract with Aboitiz was not proven.
It said the prosecution’s basis for questioning the P8 per kg charge was its comparison with the P5 per kg rate under the earlier 2001 contract between Philpost and Aboitiz.
It said the prosecution should have compared the 2004 contract with what Philpost had been spending when it entered into the P8 per kg deal with Aboitiz.
P22 cost to Philpost
It noted that the 2001 contract with Aboitiz was terminated in 2003, and that after that Philpost began using its own personnel and delivery vehicles. This operation cost Philpost P22 per kg of mail based on its own study.
The same study recommended that Philpost outsource its Luzon mail run at P8 per kg, and this was endorsed to De Guzman. De Guzman, finding it to Philpost’s advantage, approved the recommendation.
In this way was the 2004 agreement with Aboitiz entered into, the court said.
“The prosecution failed to refute by competent evidence that at the time the accused contracted with Aboitiz for the carriage of mail for its Luzon mail run, Philpost was spending P22 per kg of mail,” the court said.
“The court is of the view that this is the price that should be considered the yardstick and not the old price of P5 per kg to determine the reasonableness of the 2004 transaction with Aboitiz,” it added.
Air 21’s bid could not be compared to Aboitiz’s because Air 21 withdrew its bid after realizing that the rate it proposed was not viable, and also because Air 21’s bid was not given in the information, it added.
As for the lack of a public bidding, the court said this was true, but the procurement law allows for exceptions to the public bidding rule.
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