The Court of Appeals has ordered the suspension for six months without pay of seven officials of the Philippine Coast Guard’s Bids and Awards Committee who have been found guilty of simple misconduct for failure to implement procurement rules and guidelines involving P125 million in allocation for the purchase of rescue equipment and other services.
The CA’s Ninth Divison through Associate Justice Florito Macalino modified the resolution issued by the Office of the Ombudsman on Nov. 30, 2015 finding Commodore Enrico Efren Evangelista, Capt. Noli Casiano, Capt. Ramon Reblora, Capt. Angelito Gil, Cap. Joeven Fabul, Cdr. Teotimo Borja Jr., and Cdr. Ramon Lopez, guilty of grave misconduct and ordered their dismissal from the service.
The appellate court resolved to disagree with the findings of the Ombudsman that the petitioners were guilty of grave misconduct for the alleged bidding irregularities and short delivery of procured equipment of Special Maritime Advance Rescue Team, giving winners unwarranted benefits through evident bad faith, manifest partiality or gross negligence.
“While this Court accords great respect to the factual findings of administrative agencies that misconduct was committed, we cannot characterize the offense as grave,” the appellate court stressed.
“No substantial evidence was adduced to support the elements of corruption, clear intent to violate the law or flagrant disregard of established rule that must be present to characterize the misconduct as grave,” it said.
The case stemmed from the Commission on Audit’s findings that the petitioners violated several rules under Republic Act 9184 (Government Procurement Reform Act) covering the disposition of the P125-million fund allocation.
The CoA report said that observers were not invited during the opening of bids for specific transactions, short delivery of Smart items, inappropriate posting in a tabloid newspaper of the invitation to bid, the winning bidder did not meet the profile of a usual business establishment; the petitioners sent letters of invitations to suppliers and contractors for the procurement of some equipment, thus, giving them prior information on the subject procurements; and entering into contracts which are grossly disadvantageous to the government.
The CoA report prompted the Ombudsman to conduct an investigation in which the petitioners were found guilty of violating Section 3 e) of R.A. 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act for “causing undue injury to any party, including the government, or giving any private party any unwarranted benefits, advantage or preference in the discharge of his official administrative or judicial functions through manifest partiality, evident bad faith or gross inexcusable negligence.”
In modifying the Ombudsman’s findings, the CA held that the absence of observers in the opening of bids will not nullify the BAC proceedings based on its IRR.
While there were misrepresentations on the part of the winning bidders for the PCG projects, the CA held that there were no evidence that they colluded with the petitioners.
“Therefore, the non-existence of the usual business establishment of the supplier/contractors, alone, cannot cast doubt on the integrity of the transaction/bidding process,” the CA explained.
With regard to the short delivery of procured items, the CA noted that BAC members are not mandated to guarantee the faithful performance by the winning bidder of its obligations under the contract.
“Absent any conspiracy with herein petitioners, the inspection and acceptance team alone may be held liable for the reported short delivery of the SMART items,” the CA ruled.
Associate Justices Mariflor Punzalan Castillo and Maria Elisa Sempio Diy concurred with the ruling.