by Allan Yves Briones
The Sandiganbayan Seventh Division held former Tambulig mayor Caridad Balaod guilty of violating Section 3(e) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act for the questionable purchase of a P900,000 sports utility vehicle (SUV).
In a 24-page decision promulgated last July 19, the anti-graft court held that the ex-mayor “blatantly disregarded” the public bidding requirement, and gave “unwarranted benefit” to a private individual named Evelyn Ranile.
“There is likewise no dispute that the subject vehicle was procured, not only without the requisite public bidding, but with only one vehicle and one seller in consideration,” the decision read.
During the trial, the court found that the purchase request signed by the ex-mayor indicated specifications pertaining to a specific vehicle – one that she previously owned.
In her defense, Balaod asserted that the vehicle was an “emergency purchase”, in view of the “continuous flooding” in several barangays in Tambulig.
The court found her claim “doubtful”, as the ex-mayor waited until Ranile registered the vehicle in her name before proceeding with the sale.
“All of these circumstances contradict the existence of an imminent danger or emergency to justify the outright resort to negotiated procurement,” the decision read. “Besides, flooding is apparently something not new to Tambulig. Accused…testified that it rains and floods every year.”
The court also found that Balaod exhibited “manifest partiality” in selecting Ranile, without ensuring the most favorable terms for the local government.
“The accused, acting together, have exhibited manifest partiality in favor of Evelyn Ranile, to the exclusion of every other supplier, who were not even given the opportunity to make the potentially most favorable offer to the government,” the court said.
Alongside the ex-mayor, five members of Tambulig’s Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) were similarly convicted. Named in the decision are Budget Officer Gloria Bation, BAC members Alexander Remoto, Bienvenido Suco, Isidro Ebrado Jr. and Elvie Doong.
All six are sentenced to a minimum imprisonment of six years, as well as perpetual disqualification from public office.
Division Chairperson Ma. Theresa Dolores Gomez-Estoesta wrote the decision, concurred by Associate Justices Zaldy Trespeses and Georgina Hidalgo.