MANILA – The Supreme Court (SC) has upheld the ruling of the Sandiganbayan to convict the former mayor of Quezon, Bukidnon in connection with irregularities in the procurement of trucks and heavy equipment for the municipality in 2010.
The court’s Second Division denied the appeal filed by Stewart G. Leonardo and sentenced him to up to 10 years in prison as it found him guilty of violations of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
The court, in a ruling recently released to the public, also directed him to reimburse the amount of PHP8,134 to the municipality of Quezon as transportation costs for the equipment that he purchased at the auction.
Acting on behalf of the municipal government of Quezon, Leonardo joined the auction by United Auctioneers, Inc. (UAI) in Subic, Olongapo City. A bid deposit of PHP100,000 was paid by the local government unit (LGU) to be deducted from the purchase price in case of a successful bid.
Using the bid deposit, Leonardo bid for five trucks in the amount of PHP6.38 million and for two small equipment, a hydraulic excavator and a front cut unit cabinet amounting to PHP1.67 million for himself. The municipality was declared the winning bidder of all seven equipment.
While separate receipts were issued by UAI for the municipality and for the mayor’s personal equipment, the PHP100,000 bid deposit, however, was deducted from the final purchase price of two equipment procured by the mayor for his personal use instead of the five equipment for the municipality.
All seven items were placed in the name of the Quezon LGU as vendee and were transported together.
The mayor was subsequently charged before the Sandiganbayan for the irregularities in 2016.
Leonardo claimed that the municipality did not suffer any undue injury since he returned the bid deposit upon the demand of municipal accountant Miraflor Divinasflores.
He also said he made the reimbursement before any criminal investigation was conducted and before the Commission on Audit initiated its audit.
“Petitioner knew fully well that UAI erroneously credited (the) Quezon (LGU)’s bid deposit to his personal purchase which, as a result, got reduced from PHP1.67 million to PHP1.57 million. He cannot, therefore, feign ignorance of this fact. Besides, petitioner himself attended the auction and submitted his personal bid for the hydraulic excavator and the front cut with cabin and even paid for the same. He knew he did not make any deposit for his personal bid and purchase,” the court said.
“The actual findings of the Sandiganbayan are binding and conclusive upon this Court as it is in the best position to assess and determine the credibility of the witnesses presented,” it added. Benjamin Pulta / PNA – northboundasia.com