Sandigan acquits former Baguio camp official

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The Sandiganbayan’s Special Second Division has acquitted Jonathan Malaya, former Baguio Teacher’s Camp officer-in-charge superintendent in a graft case filed against him over approval of a recommendation to award two construction projects to a contractor in 2008 for improvement of the camp’s facilities.

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Malaya, who was an assistant secretary of the Department of Education at the time, was charged for approving the Bids and Awards Committee’s (BAC) recommendation to award the projects to Nicholas Jift Construction despite its alleged disqualification for submitting a personal check, which supposedly was not an acceptable bid security.

“However, a scrutiny of the evidence presented by the prosecution shows that the allegation that accused Malaya acted with evident partiality is untenable. From the testimonies of the prosecution witnesses and the exhibits formally offered, there is simply no evidence or even signs and indications of bias when accused approved BAC Resolution No. 09-08,” the court said in a 17-page decision promulgated on December 5.

It was referring to a resolution, which stated that the BAC decided to consider as acceptable bid security the personal check submitted by Nicholas Jift Construction as well as the surety bond of another bidder.

Nicholas Jift Construction later emerged as the lowest, qualifying bidder among the three bidders.

According to the charge sheet, the projects—which had a total contract price of P17.16 million —pertained to the “[c]onstruction of amphitheater and landscaping around it and in front of Albert Hall” and to the “[l]andscaping of Teacher’s Camp major road with two (2) rotundas and three (3) parking areas.”

The court said Malaya “immediately reviewed” the supporting documents, including the consultants’ report which “stated that there were no irregularities in the bidding,” when he received the resolution that was unanimously approved by the BAC members.

“These are enough indicia for a prudent man to believe that the procedure laid down in [Republic Act] 9184, the procurement law effective at the time material to this case, was substantially complied with. In other words, as hoPe, accused performed the task required of him—i.e., review the BAC resolution forwarded to him, together with all its supporting documents, and seeing no irregularity, approved the same. And because the actions of the accused were consistent and within the bounds of law, this court, could not see any indications of bias or partiality,” according to the Sandiganbayan.

It said “ill will or intent to cause damage could not be imputed from such actions.”

HoPe is Head of the Procuring Entity.

Republic Act (RA) 9184 is the Government Procurement Reform Act.

Malaya “could also not be considered to be grossly negligent” in approving the BAC resolution, the court further said as it pointed out that he reviewed the provisions and the attached documents.

It added that he “had every right to rely on the averments found in the BAC Resolution and the report of the procurement consultant. He is not expected to supervise the procurement process, redo the procurement process or investigate when the resolution is brought to him for approval, especially when there are no complaints or protests filed questioning the bidding process.”

The court also found that the award of the projects to Nicholas Jift Construction and Malaya’s approval did not constitute as unwarranted benefit, advantage or preference.

“Nicholas Jift was awarded the contracts or became the preferred contractor to perform the works bidded out after following the correct procurement procedure pursuant to the prevailing procurement law and its implementing rules and regulations,” it said.

“Wherefore, premises considered, the court hereby finds accused Jonathan E. Malaya not guilty of violation of Section 3, par. e, RA 3019 and hereby acquits him of the charges,” the court ruled, referring to the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act (RA 3019).

Associate Justice Samuel Martires, who leads the court’s Second Division, penned the ruling, which was concurred in by Associate Justices Michael Frederick Musngi and Geraldine Faith Econg.

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