ILOILO City – The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) here arrested Mayor-elect Frankie Locsin of Janiuay, Iloilo. The Sandiganbayan’s First Division ordered the arrest citing Locsin’s conviction “by final judgment” of the crime of violating the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
But right after Locsin’s arrest around 4 p.m. on Monday at the NBI regional office where he intended to secure a clearance for his gun license application, he was taken to the Western Visayas Medical Center (WVMC) in Mandurriao district.
Locsin suffered from hypertension, said NBI Region 6 executive officer and acting assistant director.
At his family’s request, Locsin was transferred to The Medical City in Molo district.
Just days before the May 13 midterm elections it was reported that Locsin failed to secure a favorable ruling from the Supreme Court where he appealed his February 2015 Sandiganbayan conviction for graft.
The Sandiganbayan found him and five others guilty beyond reasonable doubt of violating Section 3(e) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act or Republic.
The graft case stemmed from medicine purchases of the local government of Janiuay using P15 million from Sen. Vicente Sotto’s Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) way back in 2001.
The medical supply contract was awarded to a supplier whose accreditation was suspended by the Department of Health (DOH) thus making it supposedly unqualified to join the bidding.
Aside from Locsin, the Sandiganbayan First Division also convicted Accountant Carlos Moreno Jr., Budget Officer Ramon Tirador, Treasurer Luzviminda Figueroa, Ricardo Minurtio, and businessman Rodrigo Villanueva.
The Sandiganbayan sentenced them to a jail term of from six to 10 years and perpetual disqualification from public office.
“We receive ‘yong warrant of arrest Friday last week, May 31, from the NBI central office,” said Quinto.
It was dated May 22 and was received by the NBI central office on May 29. It was signed by Justice Efren Dela Cruz, chairperson of Sandiganbayan’s First Division.
The Sandiganbayan ordered arresting officers to bring Locsin to the anti-graft court based in Quezon City “as soon as possible, to be dealt with as the law and Rules of Court direct.”
According to Quinto, the NBI-6 physician checked Locsin to make sure the mayor-elect was fit to travel. It was discovered that his blood pressure shot up.
He was suffering from hypertensive cardio vascular disease and had community-acquired pneumonia, too, said Quinto.
NBI personnel took Locsin to the WVMC.
“We did not want to take the risk,” said Quinto.
WVMC recommended hospital confinement, according to the NBI officer, and Locsin’s three doctors had a similar advice.
“Admit muna for several days,” said Quinto. “Pag-na-stabilize ‘yong kanyang condition that’s the time na puede na natin i-turnover sa Sandiganbayan.”
Quinto, however, did not give a timetable.
The Office of the Ombudsman investigated the medicine purchases. There was supposedly a bidding on Jan. 15, 2001, with three participants – AM Europharma Corp., Mallix Drug Center and Philpharmawealth Corp.
Philpharmawealth, however, denied participating in such a bidding.
The Ombudsman also took note of the apparent haste in the process. A P1.7-million purchase contract was awarded to Mallix Drug Center while AM Europharma was awarded with a P13.1-million contract.
Locsin approved the contracts, the Ombudsman said, and the medicines were immediately delivered the following day, Jan. 16, 2001.
On Jan. 17, 2001, the purchases were fully paid after inspection by Supply Officer II Gabriel Billena.
The Ombudsman further discovered that the heads of the AM Europharma Corp. and Mallix Drug Center were one and the same – Rod D. Villanueva, further raising questions on the propriety of the transaction.
According to the Ombudsman, Villanueva was the sole proprietor of Mallix Drug Center and also the general manager and president of AM-Europharma.
“The Court finds…conspiracy between accused public officials (and) members of the municipal Committee on Awards of Janiuay…as shown by their respective signatures in the Minutes of Meetings which awarded the subject procurement of medicines in favor of AM Europharma and Mallix Drug which gave undue advantage to accused Rodrigo Villanueva, owner and proprietor of said companies,” part of the anti-graft court’s decision read.
The 34-page Sandiganbayan decision dated Feb. 23, 2015 was penned by Associate Justice Rodolfo Ponferrada and concurred by First Division Chairman Efren dela Cruz and Associate Justice Rafael Lagos.
The Sandiganbayan further stated that “there was unanimity of purpose and intent on the part of said accused officials to consummate the said procurement in favor of accused Rodrigo Villanueva as shown by the undue haste that attended the delivery of the medicines and the speed with which the payments for the said medicines were made…and even without the latter or his companies posting the required 10 percent performance bond, knowing fully well that there was a failed bidding because of AM Europharma’s DOH suspended supplier’s accreditation, that the government was not able to secure the lowest possible price for the said bidders…”
At the time of the transaction Locsin was the president of the provincial league of municipalities. Janiuay served as conduit of the medicine purchases. However, the Commission on Audit disallowed it./PN