The Supreme Court has paved the way for the conviction of former Presidential Commission on Good Government chairman Camilo Sabio after it denied the appeal of the PCGG official seeking a reversal of the Sandiganbayan decision finding him guilty of graft, in connection with the lease of 11 motor vehicles without the necessary competitive bidding.
In a 10-page decision, the SC’s Third Division through Associate Justice Diosdado M. Peralta dismissed the petition of Sabio who questioned his conviction by the anti-graft court for violations of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, and instead affirmed the decision and resolution of the Sandiganbayan, dated June 22, 2017 and Aug. 25, 2017, respectively, convicting him of graft.
The graft case against Sabio stemmed from the lease of 11 motor vehicles entered into by the PCGG with the United Coconut Planters Bank Leasing and Finance Corp. in 2007-2009, without the required competitive bidding.
In denying the appeal of Sabio, the SC ruled that the former PCGG chairman could not invoke immunity from suit for being an alter ego of the President.
“Sabio cannot claim immunity from suit for being an alter ego of the President. It was the PCGG, through Sabio and his Commissioners, not the President, who entered into the subject lease agreements without the requisite public bidding,” the high court stressed.
“It will be ridiculous to hold that alter egos of the President are, likewise, immune from suit simply because their acts are considered acts of the President if not repudiated,” the SC said.
“In fact, the 1987 Constitution is replete with provisions on the constitutional principles of accountability and good governance that should guide a public servant.”
The SC held that the unlawful acts of public officials “are not acts of the State and the officer who acts illegally is not acting as such but stands in the same footing as any other trespasser.”
Besides, the SC noted that R.A. No 9184 or the Government Procurement Reform Act, explicitly provides that all government procurement shall be done through competitive bidding, except as provided for in Article 16 the same law.
“The PCGG, being a government office or agency, is covered by R.A. No. 9184. This means that before entering the lease of the 11 vehicles, the PCGG should have conducted a competitive bidding first,” the tribunal emphasized.
The SC also ruled that there was bad faith on Sabio’s part in entering into the said lease agreements without “undertaking the required procurement process; and subjecting government funds to unnecessary expenditure without pre-allocation and the necessity for the same.”
Besides, the SC noted that Sabio was also a member of the board of United Coconut Planters Bank, the parent company of UCPB Leasing, when the lease agreements were entered into; thus giving unwarranted benefit and advantage in favor of UCPB Leasing.
“As correctly ruled by the Sandiganbayan, Sabio’s acts unmistakably reflect ‘a dishonest purpose or some moral obliquity and conscious doing of a wrong; a breach of sworn duty through some motive or intent or ill will,” the tribunal said.