Sandiganbayan affirms Ace’s conviction over calendar case

By: Morexette Marie B. Erram - Multimedia Reporter - CDN Digital | February 22,2022 - 08:23 AM
Ace Durano

Former Tourism Sec. Ace Durano | Contributed Photo

CEBU CITY, Philippines – The camp of former Tourism Sec. Joseph Felix Mari “Ace” Durano is not giving up on the legal battle he is facing over a wall calendar project.

Durano will be taking the conviction case handed upon him and on five former Department of Tourism (DOT) officials to the Supreme Court (SC). This after the Sandiganbayan junked the motion he filed that seeks to overturn the graft case he is facing.

“This development is just part of the process. As mentioned last December, we are seeking all legal remedies and will be filing an appeal with the Supreme Court as this decision is still not final and executory,” Durano said in a statement sent to reporters.

The state’s anti-graft court dismissed Durano’s motion for reconsideration after the latter was convicted of violating the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act over a P2.7 million wall calendar project during his tenure as Tourism Secretary in 2008. 

The decision was promulgated by the Sandiganbayan’s Seventh Division on January 18, 2022. It was signed by Associate Justice Georgina Hidalgo. 

Also named as respondents were Oscar Policarpio Palabyab, Grace Reyes Yoro, Eduardo Alvarez Jarque Jr., Evelyn Respicio Cajigal, and Adriana Mesa Flor, all of whom were officials of the Department of Tourism (DOT). 

Durano also said his camp is confident that the next time, the ruling will be in their favor. 

“We’re optimistic that we will attain a favorable response because we’re confident that the project in question when I was DOT secretary over a decade ago went through the proper process,” Durano continued.  

Based on the 20-page ruling, the court said, the arguments raised by Durano and the rest of the respondents were not sufficient to dismiss the conviction handed upon them. 

The court said justifications stated on their motions for reconsideration were “mere rehash of the basic issues and positions raised by the parties and exhaustively passed upon, duly considered, and resolved by this Court in the Decision to sought out to be reconsidered.” 

They also stressed that public officials should be aware of their responsibility when bidding government-funded projects and that they must ensure the entire process is compliant with the Government Procurement Reform Act (GPRA) (Republic Act No. 9184). 

“…the rules on competitive public bidding and those concerning the disbursement of public funds are imbued with public interest. Government officials whose work relates to these matters are expected to exercise greater responsibility in ensuring compliance with the pertinent rules and regulations,” portions of the ruling stated. 

“The GPRA has been in effect since January 26, 2003. It was not a new law when the project was undertaken. It confounds the Court how none herein accused apparently knew or understood their tasks,” it added.

The Ombudsman, the state’s graft investigating body, found probable cause to indict Durano and former members of the DOT’s Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) for allegedly skipping bidding processes for a wall calendar project in 2008 that costs around P2.7 million. 

The Sandiganbayan, in turn, said they found the respondents guilty of giving “undue advantage to PDP Digital Inc.” for the back-to-back wall-calendar, which is part of the department’s promotional campaign.

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