by Allan Yves Briones
The clear lack of a contract has effectively freed former Professional Regulation Commission (PRC) chairperson Teresita Manzala of her graft charges over a lease with New San Jose Builder’s, Inc. (NSJBI) in 2012.
“It must also be emphasized that no award of contract was issued and no funds were disbursed in favor of NSJBI. Thus, NSJBI did not receive any unwarranted benefit by reason of the said letter of intent,” the Sandiganbayan 7th Division stated in a decision.
Manzala was charged with violating Section 3(e) of Republic Act No. 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act for allegedly giving unwarranted benefit to NSJBI in a lease agreement for the agency’s new offices.
At the time, the agency looking to transfer PRC Executive Offices and Professional Regulatory Boards, eyeing a floor of NSJBI’s Victoria Towers.
However, the anti-graft court held that there was no “perfected contract of lease” between the two parties, only an understanding – not enough to warrant proof beyond reasonable doubt.
“The letter of intent signed by accused Manzala was a mere declaration of the PRC’s intention to lease the second floor of Victoria Towers.”
The court also explained that not only was there no funds disbursed, the call to contract NSJBI was not on Manzala alone.
“It bears to reiterate that it was not the sole decision of accused Manzala to send a letter of intent to NSJBI as it was agreed upon by the commissioners,” the court said.
In Manzala’s testimony, she reminded the prosecution that she even approved a resolution declaring a failure of negotiations, which the anti-graft court took as a sign of good faith.
Charged alongside Manzala were PRC Commissioner Alfredo Po, and NSJBI top officials Cesar Sanqui, Jr. and Mary Grace Villacorta.
They were also acquitted by the anti-graft court in an earlier decision.
The decision was written by Associate Justice Zaldy Trespeses, concurred by Division Chairperson Ma. Theresa Mendoza-Arcega and Associate Justice Georgina Hidalgo. #