Graft raps trial vs Syjuco, 6 others to continue

By: Gerome Dalipe

The trial of the graft charges against Augusto “Boboy” Syjuco Jr. and six others before the Sandiganbayan will continue.

This, after the anti-graft court’s Sixth Division denied for lack of merit the motion for leave to file a demurrer to evidence filed by Syjuco and his co-respondents, who sought to drop the case against them for lack of evidence.

“The court finds that, if unrebutted, the same is sufficient to support a verdict of guilty for violation of Sections 3 (g) and (e) of R.A. 3019 against the accused,” read the Sandiganbayan’s resolution.

Syjuco, the former congressman and director-general of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda), is facing charges for violation of Sections 3 (g) and (e) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

Also named respondents are Teodoro Sanico, Buen Mondejar, Ernesto Beltran, Juanito Belda, Francisco Fang, and Maximiano Montemayor.

They were charged with the alleged overpricing by a whooping P61 million in Tesda training materials when Syjuco headed the agency.

The Public Services Labor Independent Confederation, a group of government workers, filed the case against Syjuco in 2009, accusing him of irregularities in the purchase of equipment for two Tesda programs—the Ladderized Education Program and Nordic Development Fund.

In its 2009 annual report, the Commission on Audit found that training tools bought by Tesda under Syjuco were overpriced by P60,964,195, with the excess costs ranging from 4 to 42,723 percent per item.

Unfortunately, the delivered items were substandard and not used by Tesda training and regional offices.

Among the items discovered to be overpriced were a pair of video discs on meat processing  worth P306,250, although they cost just P715; a dough cutter bought for P48,507, but which actually costs only P120; and an incubator jar bought for P15,375, but costs only P149.

In their motions, the respondents argued the prosecution failed to present evidence sufficient to support their conviction of graft.

Being members of the BAC and its secretariat, the accused said their participation in the agreements were limited to the bidding process. There was no evidence of any irregularity during the process, the accused insisted.

They also argued there was no evidence of a conspiracy between them

For his part, Syjuco said that he should not be held criminally liable for the failure of the supplier to comply with its contractual obligations.

Aside from being a mere signatory and representative of Tesda in the agreements, Syjuco said that the prosecution failed to identify any specific duty that he violated. He said that he merely relied on the reports of subordinate officials as to the progressive performance of the supplier.

In the resolution, the Sandiganbayan said the resolution is without prejudice to the filing by the respondents of a demurrer to evidence without prior leave of court.