FOUR former executives of the Cagayan de Oro Water District (COWD) have been convicted by the Sandiganbayan for having unlawful financial interests in a government transaction after pleading guilty to the said offense rather than stand trial for corruption pertaining to allegations of a fraudulent bidding of a supply contract in 2004.
In two separate decisions dated January 24 and 27, 2020, the anti-graft court’s Second Division found former COWD Board of Directors chairman Francisco Mendez and board members Sarah Borja, Raymundo Java, and Sandy Bass Sr. guilty beyond reasonable doubt of violation of Section 7 (a) of RA 6713 or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees.
All were ordered to pay fines amounting to P5,000 each without any time behind bars.
Associate Justice Oscar C. Herrera Jr. penned by decisions with Associate Justices Michael B. Miranda and Bayani H. Jacinto concurring.
The water district officials were charged in November 2018 by the Office of the Ombudsman with a graft case over the alleged anomalous bidding of the bulk water supply project.
Prosecutors said the accused executives favored Rio Verde Water by declaring it a qualified bidder without going through evaluation by the Bids and Awards Committee.
Likewise charged was Palawan Gov. Jose Alvarez who allegedly represented Rio Verde.
During her scheduled arraignment last January 24, Borja, assisted by counsel Mark Anthony Lim, told the court that she intends to plead guilty to a lesser offense admitting prohibited financial interest in a government contract rather than go on trial for violation of Section 3 (e) of RA 3019 or the Anti-graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
Prosecutor Edgar Martho raised no objection, saying he was giving consent on behalf of the prosecution panel and the offended party.
Three days later, Mendez, Java and Bass also appeared before the court to withdraw their originals pleas of not guilty and pleaded guilty to a lesser offense.