The Supreme Court building is viewed from its closed gateway.—INQUIRER FILE PHOTO
MANILA, Philippines—For President Rodrigo Duterte, it hurts to be flogged for a Commission on Audit (COA) report that is not yet final. Citing a case against him involving the COA, he said he was charged before the Sandiganbayan but eventually “exonerated by the Supreme Court on all counts.”
“Yung audit na yun umabot hanggang Supreme Court [where] I was exonerated on all counts,” Duterte said in a taped speech Saturday morning.
Duterte was referring to a 1998 case where he and several others were charged for violation of Republic Act 3019 for entering into a contract that is “manifestly and grossly disadvantageous to the government.”
Davao computerization project
In 1990, the Davao City Local Automation Project was launched. Its goal was to make the city the leading center for computer systems and technology development. A committee was formed to conduct a study of the different computers in the market, specifications, reputations of the companies, among others.
Eventually, the committee recommended a company where the computers will be acquired. The total contract cost was P11.6-million. In November 1990, a P1.7-million check was issued as a downpayment.
That same month, a complaint letter from a concerned citizen was sent to the Office of the Ombudsman saying some city officials “are going to make a killing in the transaction.” However, no action was taken.
Then, in February 1991, a civil case was filed before the Davao City Regional Court for the judicial declaration of nullity of the Sanggunian resolutions allowing the project as well as the signed contract. In the same month, the company that was awarded the contract proposed the cancellation of the computerization of the contract.
The Sanggunian then issued a resolution and ordinance accepting the cancellation of the contract provided that the downpayment be returned to the City Treasurers’ Office within one month. In May 1991, then Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte and the computer company mutually rescinded the contract.
COA Audit Report
The COA recommended the rescission of the contract. Its special audit report, however, was sent to Davao City in May 1991, the same month the contract was canceled.
Based on its findings, COA said the contract should have been conducted through a public bidding instead of a negotiated one. It added that the hardware cost was different from the canvass by as much as 1200 percent and the city had no Information System Plan prior to the award of the contract.
In August 1991, a complaint was filed with the Ombudsman against several Davao City officials including now President Duterte. The graft case was filed before the Sandiganbayan after five years or in 1996. Duterte and the others moved to quash the information or the charge sheet at the anti-graft court. The Sandiganbayan denied the motion to quash on June 1997. After their appeal was denied, they went to the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court ruling
The High Court ruled in April 1998 that there is no basis in the law or in fact to charge Duterte and the other Davao City officials of violating the Anti-Graft Law.
The Supreme Court explained that by the time the complaint was filed at the Ombudsman, the computerization contract has been rescinded.
“There was no longer any contract to speak of,” the High Court’s Third Division said.
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