Education officials convicted of graft over anomalous book deal

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    TWO officials of the Department of Education, Culture and Sports (now Department of Education) have been sentenced to six to 10 years imprisonment by the Sandiganbayan over an anomalous P24 million textbook deal 22 years ago.

    Found guilty of one count of violation of RA 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act by the Sandiganbayan Second Division were former DECS Region 8 chief accountant Emilia Aranas and budget and finance officer Ernesto Guiang, who were also barred from holding any other position in government in the future.

    Associate Justice Lorifel Lacap Pahimna penned the 45-page decision concurred in by Associate Justices Oscar C. Herrera Jr. and Michael Frederick L. Musngi.

    Based on the criminal case filed by the Office of the Ombudsman in 2008, the defendants were accused of unlawfully approving the payment of P24 million to supplier Esteem Enterprises for the delivery of textbooks and supplementary printed materials based on falsified documents.

    Prosecutors said there was no valid procurement contract since the supposed sub-allotment release orders (SAROs) for P10 million and P14 million did not come from the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) and were later established to have been fabricated.

    A retired official of the DECS Central Office testified that the two Sub-AROs were not booked as the numbers appearing on them were already assigned to DECS-NCR for expenses related the 1998 Centennial Parade.

    The officials whose names appeared on the same documents likewise appeared in court to affirm that they did not process the said papers and that their signatures appearing on each were forgeries.

    The defense insisted that the Sub-AROs were valid and that they merely observed the proper procedure in processing the transaction and releasing the payment.

    The court, however, noted that Aranas’ claim that the payment was authorized by the DECS Central Office was unsupported by any evidence as DBM and DECS officials were presented as prosecution witnesses to prove that no such documents passed through either agency.