Former TESDA chief’s bid to dismiss graft raps junked

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    FORMER Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) director general Augusto Syjuco Jr. and five other former agency officials have failed in their bid to seek the outright dismissal of six graft charges filed against them by the Office of the Ombudsman in 2013.

    In a five-page resolution dated October 17, 2019, the Sandiganbayan Sixth Division upheld the strength of the government’s case against the defendants over the alleged anomalous procurement by Tesda of training equipment and testing tools worth P302 million in 2007.

    “After a thorough review of the records of the cases and the evidence submitted by the prosecution, the Court finds that, if unrebutted, the same is sufficient to support a verdict of guilt …against the accused,” the Sandiganbayan said.

    The ruling penned by Associate Justice Karl B. Miranda denied the Motions for leave to file demurrer to evidence filed by Syjuco; former TESDA Bids and Awards Committee members Teodoro Sanico, Buen Mondejar, and Ernesto Beltran; former chief administrative officer Juanito Belda; senior administrative assistant Francisco Fang; and administrative officer Maximiano Montemayor.

    Associate Justices Sarah Jane T. Fernandez and Kevin Narce B. Vivero concurred.

    The accused were charged with three counts each of violation of Section 3 (e) and 3 (g) of RA 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

    Ombudsman investigators said the equipment were supposedly intended to be used in TESDA’s implementation of the Ladderized Education Program but when delivered the items were found to be either “overpriced, defective, or of low quality.”

    Technical inspectors said the equipment had missing parts, were not accompanied by operating/maintenance manuals or were not intended for commercial use which rendered them “unusable.”

    Among those questioned were incubator jars which reportedly had an original price of P149 each but were purchased at P15,375 each; a hatching bucket worth P900 from other suppliers but was paid for at P43,750; and a dough cutter previously obtained from other suppliers at P120 each that had a tag price of P48,507.46.

    The Ombudsman’s investigation was prompted by an audit report that flagged the transactions for being “manifestly disadvantageous to the government.”

    In their motions, defendants argued that there was no evidence on conspiracy among them and that the procurement contract underwent the required public bidding.

    Syjuco said he relied on the competence of subordinate officials as to the evaluation of the performance of supplier/contractor, VG Roxas Co. Inc. (VGRCI).

    The BAC members claimed the testimonial evidence presented by the prosecution pertaining to alleged overpricing, non-compliance with specifications and defective deliveries were unrelated to the functions of the panel.

    The Sandiganbayan affirmed the prosecution’s stand that testimonial and documentary evidence presented constitute sufficient proof to sustain the indictment.

    Syjuco and the rest of his co-accused were directed to present their evidence or to decide whether they will file a demurrer to evidence even without leave of court – a risky choice since the defendant will be deemed to have waived his right to present his evidence.