Sandigan justice asked to inhibit in Mejorada graft case

Former Iloilo Provincial Administrator Manuel Mejorada yesterday asked Sandiganbayan Justice Zaldy Trespeces to inhibit himself from taking part in the resolution of the motion for reconsideration he and a co-accused had filed on the decision of the 7th Division convicting them for graft.

In a seven-page motion filed by his counsel, Atty. Adonis Edgar Angelo Macam, Mejorada said he had discovered belatedly that Trespeces was appointed to the Sandiganbayan in January 2016 upon the recommendation of Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon.

It was received by the Sandigan Records Division yesterday, December 2, 2020.

Mejorada said his suspicion was aroused last October 5, 2020 when Panay News, a local newspaper, published a report on the decision handed down by the 7th Division of the Sandiganbayan finding him and Ramie Salcedo guilty for violation of RA 3019, or the Anti Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

The decision was promulgated on October 2, which fell on a Friday, in a teleconference. That it came out in Panay News the following working day struck him as unusual because the decision had not yet been published, he said.

Trespeces was the ponente in the case.

“This prompted accused Mejorada to suspect that the Decision in the above-captioned case was leaked to Panay News by someone who has access to the Decision even though it has yet to attain finality,” the MR stated.

Mejorada said when the news report appeared in Panay News, he checked the website of the Sandiganbayan and saw that the decision had not yet been uploaded.

Mejorada’s lawyer furnished the 7th Division of the Sandigan a news article that reported on the appointment of Trespeces, a former staff member of then Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, upon the recommendation of Drilon.

Atty. Macam underlined the animosity between his client and Drilon, with the latter filing a total of 15 libel cases against Mejorada.

Mejorada had filed a motion for reconsideration on the decision last October 19, 2020.

In the MR, Mejorada said the decision erred in finding him guilty along with Salcedo because the acts attributed to them were done as members of the Bids and Awards Committee (BAC).

“There is no manifest partiality on the part of Mejorada because he nor Salcedo alone made the decision to consider the bidder,” Mejorada said.

The case stemmed from the procurement of a laptop computer from Seven Seven Trading by the Provincial Health Office sometime in 2009.

Mejorada said there was no injury or damage to the government because the supplier refunded the amount by the provincial government when this became subject of a Notice of Disallowance from the Commission on Audit.

Mejorada had earlier said this was orchestrated by Drilon sometime in 2014 in the wake of his exposes on alleged anomalies in the Iloilo Convention Center.

But the 7th Division of the Sandiganbayan, with Trespeces as ponente, insisted that Mejorada and Salcedo are liable for favoring the supplier in their capacity as members of the BAC.

This is a violation of his rights under the equal protection clause of the 1987 Constitution, he said.

He pointed out that the BAC is collegial in nature, and no action could be made without the approval of its members.

Mejorada said the 7th Division had erred in concluding that there was a conspiracy involving Mejorada and Salcedo.

The other co-accused in the criminal case for conspiracy to commit graft were acquitted.

During trial, Mejorada testified that the case singled him out along with Salcedo, leaving out the other members. There were six members who were present in that BAC meeting. (30)

About Manuel "Boy" Mejorada
Manuel "Boy" Mejorada is a journalist and social media activist. A former Iloilo provincial administrator, he is now waging a crusade against corruption and narco-politics.

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