CASE DIGEST: Sison v. People

G.R. Nos.170339, 170398-403 : March 9, 2010

ROLANDO E. SISON, Petitioner, v. PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Respondent.

CORONA, J.:


FACTS:

Petitioner was the municipal mayor of Calintaan, Occidental Mindoro, a fourth-class municipality, from July 1, 1992 to June 30, 1995, while Rigoberto de Jesus was the municipal treasurer. On July 18, 1994, state auditor Elsa E. Pajayon conducted a post-audit investigation which revealed that during petitioners incumbency, no public bidding was conducted for the purchase of a Toyota Land Cruiser, 119 bags of Fortune cement, an electric generator set, certain construction materials, two Desert Dueler tires, and a computer and its accessories. Pajayon also found out that there were irregularities in the documents supporting the acquisitions.

Thus, on June 4, 1998, petitioner and de Jesus were indicted before the Sandiganbayan for seven counts of violation of Section 3(e) of Republic Act (RA) 3019. Petitioner pleaded not guilty to all the Informations. Accused de Jesus has remained at large.

During the trial, he admitted that indeed, no public bidding was conducted insofar as the purchases he was being accused of were concerned. When asked how the purchases were made, he answered that they were done through personal canvass. Accordingly, no public bidding could be conducted because all the dealers of the items were based in Manila. It was therefore useless to invite bidders since nobody would bid anyway.

The Sandiganbayan found petitioner guilty as charged.As such, he was meted in each Information an imprisonment term ranging from six years and one month as minimum to ten years as maximum and perpetual disqualification from holding public office. The Sandiganbayan also ordered that an alias warrant of arrest be issued against accused de Jesus.

On appeal, the Court dismissed the same.

ISSUE:

Whether or not the petitioner is guilty of violation of Section 3(e) of RA 3019?


HELD:

The petition is denied.

POLITICAL LAW: personal canvass


RA 7160explicitly provides that, as a rule, acquisitions of supplies by local government units shall be through competitive bidding.By way of exception, no bidding is required in the following instances: (1) personal canvass of responsible merchants; (2) emergency purchase; (3) negotiated purchase; (4) direct purchase from manufacturers or exclusivedistributors and (5)purchase from other government entities.

Since personal canvass (the method availed of by petitioner) is an exception to the rule requiring public bidding, Section 367 of RA 7160 provides for limitations on the resort to this mode of procurement.

In relation thereto, Section 364 of RA 7160 mandates: Thereshallbe in every province, city or municipality a Committee on Awards to decide the winning bids and questions of awards on procurement and disposal of property. The Committee on Awardsshallbe composed of the local chief executive as chairman, the local treasurer, the local accountant, the local budget officer, the local general services officer, and the head of office or department for whose use the supplies are being procured, as members.In case a head of office or department would sit in a dual capacity a member of thesanggunianelected from among its members shall sit as a member. The Committee on Awards at thebarangaylevel shall be thesangguniang barangay. No national official shall sit as member of the Committee on Awards.

Note that the law repeatedly uses the word shall to emphasize the mandatory nature of its provisions.

Insofar as the purchase of the Toyota Land Cruiseris concerned, the Sandiganbayan found that the personal canvass was effected solely by petitioner, without the participation of the municipal accountant and petitioners co-accused de Jesus, the municipal treasurer. Worse, there was no showing that that the award was decided by the Committee on Awards. Only an abstract of canvass supported the award, signed by petitioner and de Jesus, without the required signatures of the municipal accountant and budget officer.

To reiterate, RA 7160 requires that where the head of the office or department requesting the requisition sits in a dual capacity, the participation of aSanggunianmember (elected from among the members of theSanggunian) is necessary. Petitioner clearly disregarded this requirement because, in all the purchases made, he signed in a dual capacityas chairman and member (representing the head of office for whose use the supplies were being procured). That is strictly prohibited. None of the regular members of the Committee on Awards may sit in a dual capacity. Where any of the regular members is the requisitioning party, a special member from theSanggunianis required. The prohibition is meant to check or prevent conflict of interest as well as to protect the use of the procurement process and the public funds for irregular or unlawful purchases.

The same flaws attended the procurement of 119 bags of Fortune cement, electric power generator set,various construction materials, two Desert Dueler tiresand a computer and its accessories.

With the kind of items purchased by petitioner, he also clearly spent more thanP20,000or beyond the threshold amount per month allowed by Section 367 of RA 7160 as far as purchases through personal canvass by fourth-class municipalities (like Calintaan) are concerned.

POLITICAL LAW: corrupt practices

To be found guilty under Section 3(e) of RA 3019, the following elements must concur: (1) the offender is a public officer; (2) the act was done in the discharge of the public officers official, administrative or judicial functions;

(3) the act was done through manifest partiality, evident bad faith, or gross inexcusable negligence; and (4) the public officer caused any undue injury to any party, including the Government,orgave any unwarranted benefits, advantage or preference.

It is undisputed that the first two elements are present in the case at bar.

The third element of Section 3 (e) of RA 3019 may be committed in three ways, through manifest partiality, evident bad faith or gross inexcusable negligence. Proof ofanyof these three in connection with the prohibited acts mentioned in Section 3(e) of RA 3019 is enough to convict.

Partiality is synonymous with bias which excites a disposition to see and report matters as they are wished for rather than as they are. Bad faith does not simply connote bad judgment or negligence; it imputes a dishonest purpose or some moral obliquity and conscious doing of a wrong; a breach of sworn duty through some motive or intent or ill will; it partakes of the nature of fraud. Gross negligence has been so defined as negligence characterized by the want of even slight care, acting or omitting to act in a situation where there is a duty to act, not inadvertently but wilfully and intentionally with a conscious indifference to consequences in so far as other persons may be affected. It is the omission of that care which even inattentive and thoughtless men never fail to take on their own property.

In the instant case, petitioner was grossly negligent in all the purchases that were made under his watch. Petitioner's admission that the canvass sheets sent out by de Jesus to the suppliers already contained his signatures because he pre-signed these forms only proved his utter disregard of the consequences of his actions. Petitioner also admitted that he knew the provisions of RA 7160 on personal canvass but he did not follow the law because he was merely following the practice of his predecessors. This was an admission of a mindless disregard for the law in a tradition of illegality. This is totally unacceptable, considering that as municipal mayor, petitioner ought to implement the law to the letter. As local chief executive, he should have been the first to follow the law and see to it that it was followed by his constituency. Sadly, however, he was the first to break it.

Petitioner should have complied with the requirements laid down by RA 7160 on personal canvass, no matter how strict they may have been.Dura lex sed lex. The law is difficult but it is the law. These requirements are not empty words but were specifically crafted to ensure transparency in the acquisition of government supplies, especially since no public bidding is involved in personal canvass. Truly, the requirement that the canvass and awarding of supplies be made by a collegial body assures the general public that despotic, irregular or unlawful transactions do not occur. It also guarantees that no personal preference is given to any supplier and that the government is given the best possible price for its procurements.

The fourth element is likewise present. While it is true that the prosecution was not able to prove any undue injury to the government as a result of the purchases, it should be noted that there are two ways by which Section 3(e) of RA 3019 may be violated the first, by causing undue injury to any party, including the government, or the second, by giving any private party any unwarranted benefit, advantage or preference. Although neither mode constitutes a distinct offense, an accused may be charged under either mode or both. The use of the disjunctive or connotes that the two modes need not be present at the same time. In other words, the presence of one would suffice for conviction.

POLITICAL LAW: unwarranted benefit, advantage, preference

The word unwarranted means lacking adequate or official support; unjustified; unauthorized or without justification or adequate reason. Advantage means a more favorable or improved position or condition; benefit, profit or gain of any kind; benefit from some course of action. Preference signifies priority or higher evaluation or desirability; choice or estimation above another.

In order to be found guilty under the second mode, it suffices that the accused has given unjustified favor or benefit to another, in the exercise of his official, administrative or judicial functions. Petitioner did just that. The fact that he repeatedly failed to follow the requirements of RA 7160 on personal canvass proves that unwarranted benefit, advantage or preference was given to the winning suppliers. These suppliers were awarded the procurement contract without the benefit of a fair system in determining the best possible price for the government. The private suppliers, which were all personally chosen by respondent, were able to profit from the transactions without showing proof that their prices were the most beneficial to the government.

The petitioner is guilty of seven counts of violation of Section 3(e) of Republic Act (RA) 3019.

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