Sandiganbayan junks exQuirino guv’s bid to dismiss graft raps

MANILA The Sandiganbayan has junked the motion of former Quirino governor, Pedro Bacani, to dismiss the graft charges filed against him over the allegedly anomalous purchase of PHP4.99million worth of fertilizers for a local farm project.

In an 11page resolution written by Associate Justice Lorifel Pahimna and dated last March 15, the Sandiganbayan's 2nd Division turned down Bacani's motion for "lack of merit".

The Sandiganbayan decided to continue the proceedings for Bacani's case for violation of the AntiGraft and Corrupt Practices Act.

Concurring with the ruling were Sandiganbayan 2nd Division Chairman Associate Justice Oscar Herrera Jr. and Associate Justice Michael Frederick Musngi.

The case arose from the awarding of a contract to Akame Marketing International (Akame) for the procurement of NBEM21 Microbial Inoculant Soil Activator without undergoing a public bidding.

Bacani allegedly conspired with Edilberto Apostol and Kevin Apostol, general manager and representative of Akame, respectively, for the purchases made in 2004 for the province's Farm Inputs and Farm Implements Program.

In Bacani's motion, he argued that his right to a speedy disposition of cases was violated since it took the Office of the Ombudsman more than 10 years from the conduct of its factfinding probe to the filing of the case.

He added there was no proof that he gave unwarranted benefits to Akame, saying the local government is authorized to resort to direct contracting under the Government Procurement Reform Act.

The Sandiganbayan sided with the Ombudsman, which said it took that long because the case against Bacani was an offshoot of the Fertilizer Fund scam, where numerous government officials were supposedly involved.

"It was not an easy mission for (Task Force Abono) to pursue the perpetrators who already covered up their tracks and in discerning how the embezzlement was committed. The magnitude of the farreaching controversy dictated hard work, diligence, and thoroughness," the antigraft court said.

Likewise, the Sandiganbayan took note of Bacani's failure to file his countervailing evidence with the Ombudsman. The court considers such nonfiling as the former governor's waiver of his right.

"Noteworthy is the fact that the accused movant did not present any countervailing evidence despite due notice during preliminary investigation by the Office of the Ombudsman," the antigraft court said. "This blatant disregard of the lawful order of the Ombudsman was construed by the latter as a waiver of his right to speedy disposition of cases."

The antigraft court added the arguments of Bacani about his innocence to the graft charges are "better ventilated during the trial proper".

Source: Philippine News Agency