Sandiganbayan convicts ten Romblon officials over graft charges

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DAVAO CITY, Philippines — The Sandiganbayan convicted former Romblon mayor Leo Merida, Sangguniang Bayan (SB) members over purchase of P13.5-million heavy equipment purchase.

The Sandiganbayan convicted former Romblon mayor Leo Merida, Sangguniang Bayan (SB) members Melben Mesana, Gerry Mijares, Mariano Mateo, Francisco Mayor, Jr., Chris Mazo, Ramon Magallon, Edler Robis, Rafael Riano and Bryant Riano of violation of  the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act over a heavy equipment deal.

The officials were sentenced to imprisonment of six years and one month as minimum to 10 years as maximum with perpetual disqualification from holding public office.

Records show that on 09 November 2005, the SB passed Resolution No. 137-2005 authorizing the municipal mayor to apply for a P13,950,000.00 loan with the Philippine National Bank intended for the acquisition of a brand new JCB 4x4x4 backhoe loader from supplier, Compressed Air Machineries and Equipment Corporation.

According to the local officials, the equipment was necessary for the rehabilitation and conversion of its open dump sites to controlled dumpsites.

Upon closer scrutiny, it was discovered that the procurement did not undergo any procurement process as required under the Government Procurement Reform Act (Republic Act No. 9184) as the court found that the acquisition was not referred to the Bids and Awards Committee.

Moreover, on 28 December 2005, the municipality issued a check for the payment of the equipment, but it was only on 13 September 2006 that the backhoe was delivered. Witnesses also testified that the municipality is yet to operate a sanitary landfill and that the backhoe was not used for the purpose for which it was purchased. -Editha Z. Caduaya

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