THE Sandiganbayan has allowed government prosecutors to present in rebuttal two rulings issued by the Commission on Audit last year in the trial of multiple corruption charges against former Bureau of Corrections director Gaudencio Pangilinan and chief administrative officer Ligaya Dador.
In a resolution penned by Associate Justice Ronald B. Moreno, the Third Division denied Pangilinan’s motion to suppress evidence that sought to bar presentation of the COA’s notice of disallowance and supplemental notice of disallowance both dated April 24, 2019.
The anti-graft court said it is exercising its discretion in the interest of justice, equity and fair play to allow the prosecution to mark the said COA issuances as part of its exhibits.
“We stress that the Court’s primordial role in the justice system is to ferret out the truth to ensure that justice is done. Wherefore, in light of the foregoing, the present motion filed by accused Gaudencio S. Pangilinan is denied for lack of merit,” the court said.
Presiding Justice Amparo M. Cabotaje-Tang and Associate Justice Bernelito R. Fernandez concurred.
Based on the charges filed in 2017, Pangilinan and Daro were accused of involvement in the alleged bidding irregularities for a construction project and service contracts of the BuCor amounting to P3.7 million in 2012.
The Office of the Ombudsman said the P1.4 million contract for a National Bilibid Prison building was awarded to Grand Potential Press Inc. and Dotgain Solutions which are engaged in the printing business rather than construction.
Investigators said that although there was only one structure involved, the project was split into four separate contracts to make it appear that they were being made under “small value procurement” that require less stringent scrutiny.
Also uncovered was the agency’s P2.3 million spending on food, giant tarpaulins and tents by resorting to “emergency purchase,” hence public bidding was not conducted.
Objecting to the presentation of the NDs and Supplemental NDs, the former BuCor head argued that allowing the said documents into the records would violate the rules of evidence saying that Presidential Decree No. 1445 or the Government Auditing Code of the Philippines requires that accounts already settled should only be opened after three years.
While noting the ground invoked by the defense, the Sandiganbayan pointed out that the Supreme Court had affirmed that the right of the State to recover public funds proven to have been illegally disbursed does not prescribe.
It likewise pointed out that an auditor had earlier testified that no Notice od Disallowance has been issued against the NBP rehabilitation projects hence the prosecutor deserves its chance to offer counter evidence.