Sandiganbayan clears 4 Cebu town workers in graft raps

By Benjamin Pulta

February 24, 2022, 2:03 pm

MANILA – The Sandiganbayan has acquitted four employees of a town in Cebu on charges of graft for failing to post invitations to bid online for a government supply contract to put up a school building.

In its decision dated February 23 and released Thursday, the anti-graft court's Sixth Division acquitted Ronda municipal budget officer Thelma Landiza, municipal assistant treasurer Brigida Cabaron, clerk Frauline Requilme and utility worker Evelina Tan on charges of violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

The workers had been charged in 2017 along with Mayor Mariano Blanco III, and Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) chair Oscar Pilapil for failing to post the invitations to bid (ITBs) for a school building project in 2012 on the Philippine Government Electronic Procurement System (PhilGEPS) as required by Republic Act 9184 or the Government Procurement Act.

Blanco and Pilapil died in 2018 and 2021 respectively, during the pendency of the 15 cases for irregularities in the bidding of the contracts worth PHP1.71 million for the construction of the Madanglog Elementary School.

In its ruling, the court took note of the efforts of the accused to comply with the law despite their lack of knowledge on computer use.

“On its face, the failure of the accused to post the ITBs in the PhilGEPS violates (the requirement). There is no question, however, that the accused posted the said ITBs at conspicuous places in front of the municipal hall, the public market, and along the road beside their church. Coupled with accused Pilapil’s efforts in posting in the PhilGEPS, albeit failed, the Court views such efforts as substantial compliance with the law,” it added.

It noted that Pilapil, who was not computer literate, was the only one in their municipality who attended trainings on PhilGEPS. He initially refused to attend the trainings but he had to attend as all municipal employees were also computer illiterate.

It added that his limited knowledge of how to use Microsoft Word made him the most qualified to be trained.

However, Pilapil has testified that he was not able to grasp the technical topics during the seminars.

There were only two computers in the municipality and only the one in the mayor’s office had an internet connection. (PNA)

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