MANILA - The Sandiganbayan has sentenced former Romblon, Romblon Mayor Leo Merida and several former councilors to 6 to 10 years in jail for violation of the anti-graft and corruption law over irregular procurement some 13 years ago.
Convicted along with Merida were former councilors Melben Mesana, Gerry Mijares, Mariano Mateo, Francisco Mayor Jr., Chris Mazo, Ramon Magallon, Edler Robis, Rafael Riano and Bryant Riano.
In a decision promulgated February 23, the anti-graft court found Merida and the other officials guilty of violating the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act for the purchase of a backhoe in 2005 using a P13-million loan.
The Office of the Ombudsman said records showed that the municipal council authorized Merida to apply for the loan with the Philippine National Bank for the acquisition of a brand new JCB 4x4x4 backhoe loader from Compressed Air Machineries and Equipment Corporation (CAMEC).
It was found that this did not undergo the procurement process required under the law and that the acquisition was not referred to the Bids and Awards Committee.
Witnesses also testified that the municipality has yet to operate a sanitary landfill and that the backhoe was not used for the purpose for which it was purchased.
“Based on the evidence presented, the Court is convinced that the accused, in the award of the contract to CAMEC for P13,950,000 without the benefit of public bidding and in disregard of the prescribed procedures for the use of alternative method of procurement under Republic Act No. 9184 and its Implementing Rules and Regulations Part A, has acted with evident bad faith and gave CAMEC unwarranted benefit,” the court said in its decision.
Aside from imprisonment, the officials were also perpetually disqualified from holding public office.
All of the accused appealed the verdict, but in a decision promulgated March 26, the court affirmed its ruling, saying the issues raised were already "exhaustively addressed in the assailed decision."