CAN local officials do away with public bidding in transactions where the budget is still not available?
Ruling in the negative, the Sandiganbayan denied the appeal of former Sta. Fe, Leyte municipal mayor Melchor Quemado Sr. which sought reversal of the court’s October 23, 2020 decision convicting him of one count of graft.
In the assailed ruling, the court found Quemado guilty of giving unwarranted preference to Hayward Travelodge after he allowed the municipal government to rent office space in the establishment for the sum of P16,000 in 2005 without conducting a public bidding.
During trial, evidence was presented by prosecutors showing that the lodging house was owned by the defendant’s brother, Anastacio.
The extension office was supposedly used by consultants hired by the municipality to conduct a feasibility study on proposed infrastructure projects.
The Sandiganbayan found Quemado guilty and sentenced him to six to eight years imprisonment with perpetual disqualification from holding public office.
In his appeal, the accused claimed that the municipal consultants occupied the office for free for some time since the local government was still looking for funding for the planned infrastructure projects, hence no unwarranted benefit, advantage or preference can be attributed to the transaction.
He claimed that, for the duration of the occupancy, his brother had in fact supported the municipality at his own expense.
Likewise, in the absence of funding, he argued that there can be no public bidding hence the basis of the case and the decision for saying Hayward Travelodge was extended favors was wrong.
The Sandiganbayan overruled his arguments, noting that the defendant offered no evidence to back up his claims that the space was occupied free of charge or was offered at a greatly discounted rate.
“Contrary to the claim of defense, the lack of public bidding in the lease of Hayward Travelodge was sufficiently proven. The alleged lack of government funds does not exempt government procurement from the conduct of public bidding,” the Sandiganbayan Sixth Division declared.
Associate Justice Karl B. Miranda penned the resolution with Associate Justice Sarah Jane T. Fernandez and Kevin Narce B. Vivero concurring.