Former Tesda officials plead guilty to fraud

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    FOUR former officials of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda) have pleaded guilty to the crime of frauds against the public treasury at the Sandiganbayan instead of standing trial for violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act (RA 3019).

    In a decision dated January 31, 2020, the anti-graft court’s First Division granted the requests of Tesda Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) members Teodoro Sanico, Buen Mondejar, Ernesto Beltran and Annabelle Quimbo and private defendant Jason dela Rosa to be allowed to plead guilty to a lesser offense in lieu of a full blown graft trial.

    They were meted a fine of P1,000 each even as accused Dela Rosa undertook to pay Tesda P2 million under a separate plea bargain agreement with the Office of the Ombudsman.

    On the other hand, the court dismissed the case against the late Tesda secretary Augusto Syjuco Jr. who passed away last January 10, 2020 in Singapore where he had sought treatment for cancer.

    Prosecutors charged the defendants with graft in relation to alleged irregularities in the award of a P30 million contract to Prime Logic Corporation (PLC) in 2007 to build the agency’s Integrated TVET Management System through the Tesda e-Portal.

    Graft investigators alleged the bidding process was attended by fraud because there was no compliance to the requirement for the minimum number of bidders and the non-disclosure of approved budget for the contract, fund source, contract duration, and delivery schedule of the portal project in the published invitation to bid,

    They likewise claimed that the winning contractor was technically and financially not qualified to undertake the project.

    During their arraignment for the graft charge on May 17, 2019, the accused Tesda officials and Dela Rosa originally pleaded Not Guilty.

    But on January 15, 2020, the defense informed the court that Ombudsman Samuel Martires has granted the prosecution the authority to enter into a plea bargaining agreement with the accused provided that the civil liability of P2 million will be paid.

    During their re-arraignment last January 31, defendants Sanico, Mondejar, Beltran, Dela Rosa and Quimbo withdrew their earlier Not Guilty plea and instead pleaded Guilty to the lesser offense of frauds against public treasury defined and penalized under paragraph 1, Article 213 of the Revised Penal Code.