2 ex-Zambo Norte execs get 12 years for SUV purchase anomalies

MANILA A former mayor and vice mayor of the municipality of Labason in Zamboanga del Norte have been sentenced to up to 12 years imprisonment by the Sandiganbayan for the purchase of a sports utility vehicle (SUV) by the municipality without public bidding in 2011.

In its 53-page decision dated November 29, the Sandiganbayan's Sixth Division through Associate Justice Sarah Jane Fernandez found mayor Wilfredo Balais and vice mayor Virgilio Go guilty of violating Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act and sentenced them to up to 12 years in prison and perpetual disqualification from public office.

The two were charged for causing the 2011 purchase by the municipality of Labason of a 2001 model Nissan Patrol Wagon (plate number KCL 533) for PHP900,000 without public bidding from a private individual, Eduardo A. Ayunting, who owned a car dealership in Cagayan de Oro City.

Ayunting had previously bought the vehicle from Balais for a mere PHP500,000 two months earlier.

Ayunting was later discharged from the case to serve as a state witness.

In his testimony, Ayunting claimed he had merely accommodated the request of Balais for the transaction and said he had not received any of the sums even after Balais returned the vehicle and informing him that the Commission on Audit (COA) had disallowed the purchase by the municipality.

In ruling against the two officials, the court said "the rescission or cancellation of the contract only had the effect of restoring to the LGU of Labason the funds paid for the subject vehicle", adding, "The return of the funds to the LGU of Labason will not negate the damage caused thereto, and the unwarranted benefits given to Oro Cars and Ayunting".

"Subscribing to the accused's argument would render RA 3019 inutile. Public officers will be free to enter into anomalous transactions, in contravention of the law, and easily evade criminal liability by immediately canceling such anomalous transactions when they get hold of information that criminal charges will be filed against them, using such anomalies as a convenient ground for the cancellation of the transaction," the court said.

Associate Justices Karl Miranda and Kevin Vivero concurred. (PNA)

Source: Philippines News Agency

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