Book Board official sentenced to 6 years

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    THE Sandiganbayan has found National Book Development Board (NBDB) executive officer Nellie Apolonio-Vernei guilty of graft for granting a one-year contract renewal to a security agency without conducting the required public bidding way back 2002.

    In a 23-page decision dated February 7, 2020, the anti-graft court’s Fourth Division sentenced Apolonio-Vernei to imprisonment of six to 10 years with perpetual disqualification from holding public office.

    The judgment was signed by Associate Justices Reynaldo P. Cruz, Alex L. Quiroz and Bayani H. Jacinto.

    Based on the information filed in 2006, the Office of the Ombudsman accused Apolonio-Vernei of giving unwarranted benefits or advantage to Maximum Security and Services Corporation when she extended the firm’s contract from January 1, to December 31, 2002 amounting to P528,645.11.

    Prosecutors said the defendant overstepped the bounds of her authority because the contract extension did not undergo public bidding and an evaluation by the NBDB Governing Board.

    Testifying in her own defense, Apolonio-Vernei said the case was based on a complaint filed by Daniel Fajardo who replaced her in office.

    She said that while Fajardo was appointed by former President Arroyo on May 2002 and took his oath on June 14, 2002, the Governing Board locked his assumption in office and petitioned Arroyo to recall his appointment.

    Pending the action of the Office of the President, the NBDB Governing Board likewise issued a resolution maintaining the status quo which allowed her to stay on.

    She claimed that she was no longer the executive officer when she signed the addendum to contract in favor of Maximum Security on July 12, 2002.

    However, the court dismissed her argument for being flawed, noting that the addendum states that the contract was entered into “this March 1, 2002…”

    “There is no doubt that the date of the execution of the addendum to contract was 1 March 2002. What the defense claims as the date of execution on 12 July 2002 was the date of notarization,” the Sandiganbayan said.

    Likewise counted against the accused was her admission that no public bidding took place.

    “Apolonio-Vernei agreed to extend the contract of Maximum Security by making it appear, at first glance, that the amendment thereon was only for the increase of the monthly rates of the security guards, but in truth the period of the contract was also extended for the whole year of 2002,” the court said.