By Tetch Torres-Tupas
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines—The Sandiganbayan convicted a former mayor and municipal accountant in Caibiran, Biliran for the anomalous purchase of tapping saddles (steel pipe connectors) in 1998.
Sentenced to suffer six years and one month to 10 years of imprisonment and perpetual disqualification from public office is former mayor Melchor Maderazo and acting municipal accountant Dionesio Veruen Jr for violating Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
The Sandiganbayan First Division also ordered Maderazo and Veruen “to indemnify, jointly and severally, the municipality of Caibiran, Biliran the amount of P160,000 representing the losses that it suffered by reason of the non-delivery of the 400 pieces of tapping saddles with legal interest.”
Records showed that on January 28, 1998, the Sangguniang Bayan (SB) enacted a resolution authorizing Maderazo to enter into a negotiated contract with Artemio Vermug, proprietor of Vermug Welding Shop, for the fabrication of 400 pieces of tapping saddles worth P160,000 for the town’s water system.
However, it was found that the tapping saddles were not needed and despite non-compliance with the requirements of the negotiated contract and non-delivery of the items, the amount was released by the accused.
In the decision penned by Associate Justice Rodolfo Ponferrada and concurred in by Associate Justices Efren De La Cruz and Rafael Lagos, it held that the Ombudsman’s Office of the Special Prosecutor (OSP) proved beyond reasonable doubt that Maderazo and Veruen were guilty of defrauding the government after the supposed contractor, Vermug, testified against the mayor.
Vermug revealed that Maderazo made him sign the job contract and endorsed a check worth P160,000, but he did not do any actual work and the deal did not push through.
Vermug testified that he never received any cent from the proceeds of the contract because after he had endorsed the Land Bank Check, he returned it to Maderazo upon the latter’s request only to discover later that it was encashed by municipal treasurer Domingo Vidal from the bank branch in Naval, Biliran. Vidal corroborated Vermug’s testimony.
The Court held that “the endorsement of the check by Mr. Vermug for no apparent reason further proves that when the check was released on January 28, 1998, he had not yet delivered the tapping saddles.”
It added that Maderazo could not have succeeded with the crime without the cooperation and participation of Veruen because they both signed the disbursement voucher, the Land Bank check, and the false inspection report that was submitted as liquidation for the “ghost” purchase and delivery of 400 pieces of tapping saddles.
“[T]he act of accused [Veruen] processing and approving the subject voucher without determining the completeness of the supporting documents in violation of his duties as municipal accountant, is an indication of evident bad faith because, in so doing, he breached his sworn duty as public official to protect and uphold at all times the interest of the municipality of Caibiran,” the Decision stated.
The Court acquitted co-accused Jovencio Pantas, Nestorio Rosario, Victor Maderazo, and Imelda Cuevas, for lack of evidence. The case against co-accused Florentino Baquilay was earlier dismissed in 2008 in view of his death in 2006.
“In this connection, the respective cash bonds posted by the said accused are hereby released to them subject to the usual accounting and auditing procedures, and the Hold Departure Orders issued against them are hereby lifted and set aside,” the Decision added.
The case against co-accused Camilo Go, Cesar Almen, and Camilo Brasil, who are at-large, was ordered archived.