11 ex-officials of Viga, Catanduanes convicted of graft

MANILA – The Sandiganbayan has sentenced a former mayor, vice mayor, and nine council members of a town in Catanduanes province to up to 10 years in jail over irregularities in the procurement of a backhoe loader worth more than PHP13 million in 2005.

In a 48-page decision dated October 9, the anti-graft court's 3rd Division, through Associate Justice Ronald B. Moreno, found former Viga municipal mayor Jose D. Torres guilty of violating Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

Also sentenced were then vice mayor Yolando B. Tuquero and Sangguniang Bayan (municipal council) members Lourdes A. del Rosario, Asuncion L. Odi, Rosario T. Mollasgo, Horacio T. Aquino Jr., Domingo C. Villanueva, Orbel T. Tonio, William T. Tuplano, and Gomercindo T. Litong.

Meanwhile, the court also issued an arrest warrant against council member Nerissa B. Usero, who remains at large.

"Indubitably, all the accused jointly expedited an irregular and illegal procurement of JCB 4CCX 4x4x4 backhoe loader with undue preference for Camec as supplier with no valid justification whatsoever," the court said.

It added that the accused "offered no sufficient justification why it resorted to direct contracting, an alternative method of procurement, instead of the default, which is through competitive public bidding."

Associate Justices Amparo M. Cabotaje-Tang and Bernelito R. Fernandez concurred with the decision. (by Benjamin Pulta, PNA)