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Sandiganbayan clears three PHILSCA officers of graft over Cessna purchase

The Sandiganbayan has cleared three bidding officers of the Philippine State College of Aeronautics (PHILSCA) of graft charges in connection with the 2008 purchase of five Cessna planes without public bidding due to lack of evidence.

In a 21-page decision dated March 31, the Sandiganbayan reversed the earlier graft conviction of Reynaldo Roca, Louie Timajo and Erwin Abon rendered by the Pasay City Regional Trial Court Branch 23.

It reversing the lower court's ruling, the Sandiganbayan said the respondents did not award the contract for the purchase of five Cessna planes due to partiality but because the two prior public biddings had failed.

"After a careful review of the evidence on record, testimonial and documentary, the court finds no basis to conclude that the appellants acted with evident bad faith, manifest partiality and/or with gross inexcusable negligence in connection with the aborted negotiated procurement of five Cessna aircrafts by PHILSCA," it said.

The Sandiganbayan said Roca, Timajo, Noda did not favor Aviatour Fly'n Inc. as the winning bidder via negotiated procurement because in the aftermath of the two failed public biddings, the three issued Resolution No. 5, Series of 2008 where it resolved "to consider Aviatour Fly'n Inc. as the Single Calculated/Rated Responsive Bid for the  procurement of five Cessna 172 Aircraft."

"These turn of events are clearly spelled out in BAC Resolution No. 5. There was no endorsement by the appellants of Aviatour as winning bidder and then followed it with the alternative mode of negotiated procurement," the Sandiganbayan said.

The anti-graft court also noted that the Pasay court was wrong in finding Roca, Timajo, Noda guilty of graft because they supposedly awarded the contract to Aviatour’s Fly’n Inc. even if it lacked the eligibility and documentary requirements and the BAC failed to prove existence of failed two public biddings.

"The charge against the appellants is not about lack of eligibility requirements of Aviatour to participate in a public bidding or the BAC's failure to comply with procedures on public bidding, but Aviatour’s alleged non-submission of certain documents in the negotiated procurement," the Sandiganbayan said.

"There may have been lapses in the negotiated procurement process undertaken. But even if that were so, or even assuming that there was a violation of the procurement procedure laid down in Republic Act 9184 or the Government Procurement Law, that does not warrant the conviction of the appellants for Violation of R.A. 9013, or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act," it added.

The Sandiganbayan also said the appellants did not award any contract for the purchase of the aircraft to the Aviatour and no such contract was ever executed since it merely recommended "to consider Aviatour as the Single Calculated/Responsive Bid for the procurement of five Cessna 172 Aircraft" as provided by a BAC Resolution.

"While a Notice of Award was subsequently issued by the President of PHILSCA to the procuring entity, the actual purchase of the aircrafts did not materialize apparently because of questions regarding the nature of the documents which Aviatour was thereafter required to submit," it said. —KBK, GMA Integrated News