Sandigan OKs graft trial of ex-Iloilo Rep. Syjuco

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    FORMER Iloilo Rep. Judy Syjuco has failed to stop proceedings in her graft and malversation charges concerning the alleged misuse of her Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) for the procurement of P5.97 million worth of mobile phones in 2004.

    In a resolution released last February 1, the Sandiganbayan Third Division denied Syjuco’s motion seeking dismissal of both cases on the ground that the information filed were defective and that there was insufficient evidence to support the allegations against her.

    Rep. Syjuco, wife of former Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda) Secretary Augusto Syjuco, is accused of supposedly conspiring with former officials of the Department of Transportation and Communication (now the Department of Transportation) and a private defendant to defraud the government through the ghost procurement of 1,582 units of Nokia 1100 cellular phones.

    Prosecutors said the supposed purchase was a bogus transaction because it did not undergo public bidding, there was no verifiable delivery and distribution to the intended recipients in eight municipalities of Iloilo province, and the identified supplier, West Island Beverages Distributor, only sold prepaid cards not mobile phone units.

    Likewise, a sales executive of Smart Communications confirmed that West Island made no purchase of any Nokia 1100 phones between December 2004 to February 2005 while the purported list of serial numbers listed by the supplier-contractor were traced to phone units already sold by Smart to other distributors.

    Named co-defendants in the graft charge were former DOTC Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) chairman Domingo Reyes, Jr., vice-chairman Elmer Soneja, and members Rebecca Cacatian, Ildefonso Patdu, Jr., Geronimo Quintos, and Venancio Santidad as well as DOTC Inspector Marcelo Desiderio, Jr., storekeeper Antonio Cruz, and DOTC Technical Inspector Danilo Dela Rosa. Included as private defendant was Domingo Samuel Jonathan Ng, representing West Island.

    In her motion, Syjuco invoked her constitutional right to be spared the rigors of a trial where it can be shown that she did not commit any wrong or that she is innocent of the crime charged.

    In support of this contention, she said the evidence presented did not support the specific allegations, the facts as alleged do not constitute a criminal offense, and that humanitarian considerations entitle her to relief from trial.

    The Court however overruled Syjuco’s arguments for filing a wrong motion and for filing the same too late into the proceedings.