Sandiganbayan convicts former Zamboanga Sibugay mayor over anomalous bidding practices

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by Allan Yves Briones

Former Zamboanga Sibugay mayor Gemma Florante will be spending six to eight years in prison over her participation in the irregular procurement of P8.8 million in heavy equipment in 2007.

In a 42-page decision, the Sandiganbayan Sixth Division held the ex-mayor guilty of graft, violating Section 3(e) of Republic Act No. 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

The court ruled that Florante conspired with four others to conduct a public biding “riddled with several irregularities” to allow private firm CVCK to win out.

The P8.8 million contract was for the procurement of one road grader, one payloader, one road roller and two dump trucks.

“A competitive public bidding aims to protect the public interest by giving the public the best possible advantages through open competition,” the decision said.

Florente was found to have deliberately failed to disclose the approved budget for the contract in the Invitation to Apply for Eligibility and to Bid (IAEB), an official document mandated under procurement law.

“Withholding the amount…in the IAEB thwarts the foundation of a fair, transparent, and competitive public bidding since prospective bidders, except those with inside information on the actual ABC, run the risk of being disqualified,” the court added.

In Florante’s case, two other bidders were reportedly disqualified because their bids exceeded the approved budget. CVCK, through bidding irregularities, matched the budget exactly.

“There is no quibble that the bidding conducted by the BAC did not meet the principles of transparency and competitiveness enunciated in R.A. 9184…thus, making it highly irregular,” the decision read.

Alongside Florante, then-bids and awards committee Chairman Felix Timsan and members Emmanuel Enteria and Jonathan Cartagena were also convicted of graft.

For their crimes, Florante and the rest of the accused were sentenced to an imprisonment of six to eight years as well as a ban on ever holding public office. #