BAGUIO CITY – The Office of the Ombudsman recommended the filing of information against Camp 7 Punong Barangay Constancio Danao and Barangay Treasurer Romel Beltran for violation of Republic Act (RA) 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act after finding probable cause on the graft charges filed against them by a number of barangay kagawads.
However, in an 8-page resolution penned by Graft Investigation and Prosecution Officer III Marietta M. Ramirez dated July 3, 2017 and approved by Assistant Ombudsman Gil Felix A. Hidalgo, the Ombudsman dismissed the charges for the violation of RA 9184 against the two barangay officials for lack of probable cause.
The resolution stemmed from the complaint filed by barangay kagawads Juan T. Baldo, Marcelina P. Pucdo, Joel C. Buena and Susan M. Habbiling who averred that they were members of the barangay Bids and Awards Committee and on December 9, 2015, BAC secretary Rosalie Abad called the BAC for the opening of the supposed bids for the procurement of warning device and disaster preparedness equipment and tools which surprised them as they were not aware of such project.
The complainants added upon assurance of Danao that such project was part of the barangay’s Annual Procurement Plan and urgently needed, the BAC proceeded with the opening of the bids with the representative of the Commission on Audit present and two participating bidders, J&J Tools and General Merchandise and ESM Learning Enterprise with the latter informing the BAC that they have incomplete documents as they could not download the attachments from the website prompting them to secure the bidding documents from Beltran, who unfortunately was not at the barangay hall and as a result, the BAC decided to give ESM the chance to secure the bid documents amidst the objection of the other bidder.
On December 10, 2015, the BAC received a protest from J&J and on December 15, 2015, the BAC met and passed an unnumbered resolution requesting Danao’s course of action on the issues regarding the assailed bidding.
On December 29, 2015, Danao informed Baldo that he had already settled the matter between the two bidders and nonetheless, Pucdo and Habbiling refused to sign the award to J&J and on February 2016, the complainants did not receive their salaries because the COA deferred the encashment of all barangay checks due to non-submission of required attachments covering transactions from December 2015 to March 2016.
Upon inquiry, the complainants found out that Danao and Beltran issued a check in favour of J&J dated December 29, 2015 amounting to P369,249.11 without supporting documents to the damage and injury of the barangay.
The Ombudsman stated there is clear evidence showing Danao showed manifest partiality or clear, notorious, plain inclination or predilection to favour J&J when he awarded the contract to J&J despite the decision of the BAC to give an opportunity to ESM to submit its complete bid documents.
Worst, the resolution added Danao allegedly facilitated and released the check payment of P369,249.11 to J&J despite the lack of supporting documents which resulted in the COA’s advise dated May 6, 2016 for the deferred or stopped encashment or negotiation of all checks issued by the barangay.
According to the resolution, Danao and Beltran’s defense that the questioned transaction is supported by pertinent documents has not been substantiated and undoubtedly, conspiracy existed between them because the acts complained of would not have been committed without the indispensable cooperation of each other.
Consequently, the Ombudsman claimed it finds no probable cause to indict Danao and Beltran for violation of Section 65 of RA 9184 and that the act complained of does not fall within any of the acts penalized under the said law.
The Ombudsman did not give due course to the prayer of the preventive suspension of the two barangay officials because it is not a relief available for criminal cases undergoing preliminary investigation considering that preventive suspension is a remedy ancillary to an administrative proceeding and should be prayed for in the Sangguniang Panlungsod of Baguio city where the administrative case was filed.