Sandiganbayan acquits ex-PRC chair of graft charge

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    THE Sandiganbayan has cleared former Professional Regulation Commission (PRC) chairperson Teresita Manzala of any liability in relation to the alleged anomalous property lease deal with New San Jose Builders Inc. (NSJBI) in 2012.

    In a 39-page decision penned by Associate Justice Zaldy V. Trespeses, the anti-graft court’s Seventh Division acquitted Manzala of a graft charge filed against her and other PRC officials in 2015 due the prosecution’s failure to present proof beyond reasonable doubt.

    Associate Justice Ma. Theresa Dolores C. Gomez-Estoesta and Georgina D. Hidalgo concurred.

    The court held that evidence presented by government lawyers fell short of establishing that the accused acted with “evident bad faith, manifest partiality or gross inexcusable negligence” or that her actions gave NSJBI unwarranted benefits, advantage, or preference.

    “It bears to reiterate that it was not the sole decision of accused Manzala to send the letter of intent to NSJBI as it was agreed upon by the commissioners. It must also be emphasized that no award of contract was issued and no funds were disbursed in favor of NSJBI,” the Sandiganbayan pointed out.

    Based on the information filed by the Office of the Ombudsman in August 2015, Manzala was accused of conspiracy with former PRC Commissioner Alfredo Y. Po, NSJBI president Cesar S. Sanqui Jr. and First Vice President Mary Grace K. Villacorta in the alleged rigged bidding of a lease deal on office spaces in the second floor of Victoria Towers in Quezon City.

    In an earlier resolution on May 7, 2019, the court granted demurrers to evidence filed by Po, Sanqui and Villacorta and ordered the case against them dismissed, leaving Manzala the only remaining defendant.

    In her testimony, Manzala underscored the fact that there was no notice of award, no notice to proceed, and no contract was awarded to NSJBI.

    As PRC chair, she also approved the resolution of the Bids and Awards Committee declaring a failure of negotiations.

    The Sandiganbayan said these actions by the defendant are proof against allegations of dishonesty.

    “To the Court, such act of accused indicates good faith on her part. As a result of the said (BAC) resolution, no contract was awarded to NSJBI and the government did not pay any amount to the latter,” it pointed out.