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Evidence vs Surigao Norte ex-governor strong, prosecutor insists

ASSISTANT Special Prosecutor Julieta Zinnia Niduaza has asked the Sandiganbayan to uphold government evidence in the graft case against former Surigao del Norte governor Francisco Matugas and his coaccused concerning alleged fraudulent purchases of medical supplies from 1996 to 1998.

Niduaza said the prosecution’s exhibits sufficiently proved the existence of conspiracy among the accused to rig public bidding for medical supplies and that there was overpricing of items purchased.

Charged along with Matugas were former provincial administrator Carlos Egay, provincial treasurer Antonio Bonono, provincial accountant Daisy Andit, provincial budget officer Virginia Yuipco, provincial general services officer Zenon Eupeña and assistant provincial administrator Sally Plaza.

Named private defendants were Joemel Tinio-Yu, alleged niece of Matugas; and private contractors Ernesto Bravo of Saint Martin Pharmaceutical Laboratory Inc., Francisco Reyez of Beruth Medical Enterprises Inc., Jesse Peñaranda of Colt Marketing and Vivian Ortiz of Medicine Trading Inc.

Niduaza filed her motion in response to Demurrers to Evidence filed by Matugas, Egay, Tinio-Yu, Andit, Yuipco, Eupeña and Plaza.

The defendants claimed there was no categorical finding of rigged bidding or of overpricing in the procurement.

But Niduaza pointed out that documentary evidence showed that none of the suppliers were qualified to even participate in the bidding owing to inadequate capitalization; lack of accreditation from the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) or the Bureau of Food and Drugs (BFAD)or both and failure to register with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The provincial government purchased DS water bottles, butterfly needles and amoxicillin capsules from the said suppliers for its “Panambay sa Barangay” medical-outreach program.

SEC documents revealed that Medicine Trading Inc. only had P100,000 in paid-up capital, but was awarded six supply contracts totaling P1.49 million between October 1996 and February 1998.

Beruth Medical, on the other hand, operated with a P125,000 capitalization, but was granted eight supply deals worth P271,599.15. It was also found to have no DTI registration.

Colt Marketing had no license to operate from Bfad and was not registered with the SEC but cornered a P985,000 contract.

According to the DTI-Bureau of Trade Regulation and Consumer Protection, it was only registered on August 9, 2001.

Laboratory International Inc. was not registered with the DTI, the SEC or the Bfad but still landed five contracts with a total value of P1.31 million.

Based on a review by a team of government auditors, among the items purchased were 5000cc DS water at P109 per bottle, which were found to be sold by other suppliers at only P26 per bottle; butterfly needles, priced at P68 per unit obtainable from others at P9.95 each; and amoxicillin antibiotics, paid for at P73.83 per capsule sold by other companies at P10 each.

“The winning bidders were not qualified to undertake the project. The evidence on record shows that Joemel Tinio-Yu, a niece of then- governor Matugas represented all the five winning bidders. It was also accused Tinio-Yu who personally received and accepted the bids of the five bidders,” Niduaza said.

“Noteworthy also is the fact that all the checks payable to the five suppliers were all deposited to the account of Merne Peñaranda, a niece also of accused Matugas,” she added. (Business Mirror)

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