ILOILO City – How long should convicted Mayor-elect Frankie Locsin of Janiuay, Iloilo be under hospital arrest? Certainly not indefinitely, according to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) in Region 6. It asked the Sandiganbayan’s First Division which convicted Locsin for graft to send a court-appointed physician to check the incoming municipal official’s condition.
“Once and for all para maiiwasan ang haka-haka, baka ano ang isipin ng publiko, at least malinis ang konsensya natin,” said Atty. Ramilo Quinto, NBI Region 6 executive officer.
The NBI arrested Locsin on June 3.
The Sandiganbayan’s First Division ordered the arrest citing Locsin’s conviction “by final judgment” for violating the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
But right after Locsin’s arrest he was taken to the Western Visayas Medical Center in Mandurriao district.
Locsin suffered from hypertension. At his family’s request he was transferred to The Medical City in Molo district.
According to Quinto, his office’s letter request to the anti-graft court was sent on June 6 yet.
“We are waiting for an order from the Sandiganbayan. We prayed for a court-appointed physician para mag-check once and for all kung ano ang medical condition talaga, kung puwede po ba siya i-biyahe and i-turnover sa Sandiganbayan or New Bilibid Prison,” Quinto told Panay News.
The NBI does not question the wisdom of Locsin’s attending physicians, he clarified; his agency simply wanted to handle this matter with fairness to avoid malicious insinuations.
According to Quinto, Locsin’s doctors have been saying their patient’s condition has improved but they could not issue a certification that the mayor-elect is already fit to travel.
“’Yun naman ang ayaw namin mangyari, na maging indefinite ang pag-stay ni mayor doon,” said Quinto.
As stated in the Sandiganbayan arrest warrant, arresting officers must 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.”
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.
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./PN