By: Nelson S. Badilla
A broadsheet newspaper has published a story about the decision of the Sandiganbayan on the corruption charges against military officials.
The report said Dante Senen (Supply Accountable Officer of the Military Supply Unit of the Armed Forces of the Philippines) who was based in Cebu City was sentenced to 16 years of imprisonment after he was found “guilty” beyond reasonable doubt of corruption and malversation of public funds.
Senen also was perpetually disqualified by the Sandiganbayan from holding any position in the government.
His case had something to do with the sale of four power generators amounting to P1.2 Million to a certain Antonio Ularte of Eduard Enterprises in early 2000.
After thorough investigation, the Office of the Ombudsman found sufficient grounds to file corruption and malversation of public funds charges against Senen, Brigadier General Vladimir delos Trino, Major Antonio Jason Garcia, and Ularte in 2005 before the Sandiganbayan.
The Sandiganbayan has already found Delos Trino and Garcia guilty beyond reasonable doubt for the same offense in May 2011.
Senen went into hiding after he, along with three others, was charged before the court of the aforementioned criminal acts.
He was arrested on November 2011 inside the Camp Aguinaldo (AFP General Headquarters) in Quezon City.
Ularte is still in hiding until now.
Senen, according to the newspaper report, Sandiganbayan stressed in its 20-page decision that Senen gave “unwarranted benefits” to Ularte (who represented Eduard Enterprises), but prejudicial to the Philippine Government when he sold the four power generations to Ularte for P800,000.00 only instead of over P1 Billion, which was the market value of the said products during that time.
Senen did the crime without the legal and correct process of bidding, but upon the orders of Delos Trino and Garcia.
The anti-graft court told Senen that “If accused Senen is indeed innocent or unaware of the grand plan of accused Delos Trino and Garcia, he should have immediately reported the incident to his commanding officer to properly address the same or prevent the disposal of generators.”
The Sandiganbayan said “The evidence presented [before the justices] [wa]s sufficient to prove the guilt of the accused as his actions from the time of the disposal of the generators amount to gross inexcusable negligence.”
The conviction of Senen, Delos Trino, and Garcia was definitely good.
However, as a Filipino citizen and as an anti-corruption advocate, I am not happy with the decision of the Sandiganbayan because it took 12 years to prove the guilt of Senen and six years for Delos Trino and Garcia.
Although the Sandiganbayan found sufficient evidence to send Senen, Delos Trino, and Garcia to the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) and not lack of evidence, I strongly believed that the community of anti-corruption advocates is not strongly happy because it took the Sandiganbayan 6 years to 12 to punish the corrupt public officials, which to me is not a convincing act of anti-corruption battle of the government.
The Sandiganbayan, being an independent government organ, is part of the government that has a role to end corruption in the government.
The extremely snail-pace trial of the Sandiganbayan is a concrete proof of how the Philippine Criminal Justice System works.
Senen, Delos Trino, and Garcia are not elected officials of the AFP.
Public perception that the three are not well known and definitely not powerful people compared to Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, Luis Lorenzo, Jocelyn “Jocjoc” Bolante who became superstars during the P723 Million fertilizer scam’s Senate investigation, thus, they were found guilty beyond reasonable doubt should not be the reason to be happy and impressed with the Sandiganbayan for this particular accomplishment even the trial took six years to 12 to decide against them.
Arroyo, Lorenzo, and Bolante were acquitted by the Sandiganbayan due to lack of evidence to prove they benefited in the P723 Million fertilizer scam.
A decision of conviction after a very long trial should never be a reason to be happy and therefore rejoice with the court’s inefficiency against graft and corruption.
If the Sandiganbayan convicted the likes of Benigno Simeon Cojuangco Aquino III, Corazon Soliman, Emilio Joseph Abaya, and Proceso Alcala for corruption and plunder charges in less than six years of trial and no presidential pardon will happen, then, me and the Filipino people must be extremely happy because there is a very valid reason to rejoice.