(GSIS logo)

(GSIS logo)

MANILA, Dec 1 (Mabuhay) – Former Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) president and general manager Winston Garcia and 10 other former high-ranking officials of the agency have been charged with graft in connection with the alleged anomalous awarding of contract for an electronic membership card (e-card) project in 2004.

Named as Garcia’s co-accused in the case were former GSIS vice president Enriqueta Disuanco, former senior vice president Benjamin Vivas Jr., former Board of Trustees chairman Hermogenes Concepcion Jr. and former Board of Trustees members Elmer Bautista, Fulgencio Factoran, Floriño Ibañez, Aida Nocete, Reynaldo Palmiery, Ellenita Tumala-Martinez and Leonora Vasquez-De Jesus.

In a case filed before the Sandiganbayan on Friday last week, the Office of the Ombudsman through its Office of the Special Prosecutor  (OSP), charged Garcia and his co-accused with violation of Section 3 (e) of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

Section 3 (e) of R.A. No. 3019 prohibits a public official, in the discharge of his official functions, from inflicting any undue injury or giving unwarranted benefits, advantage or preference to any person or entity.

Based on the information of the case, in May 2004, Garcia and his co-accused awarded the multimillion-peso project to the Union Bank of the Philippines (UBP) allegedly without complying with the requirements and procedures set forth under Republic Act 9184 or the Government Procurement Reform Act.

Among the irregularities the OSP cited in the complaint was the awarding of the contract to UBP even before the date of the deadline for the submission of bid proposals.

The OSP said the contract was also awarded to UBP “prior to the recommendation of the Committee tasked to evaluate the proposals”.

“This is to certify that based on records, a preliminary investigation was conducted in this case, that there is sufficient ground to engender a well-founded belief that the crime charged has been committed, and that the accused are probably guilty thereof,” the OSP said in a certification attached in the charge sheet.

The GSIS e-card project became controversial when the Commission on Audit (COA) in 2005 said the awarding of the contract was marred with several irregularities.

The COA report said undue preference was given to UBP, which has fewer branches and ATM stations nationwide as compared to GSIS’ then depository bank, Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP).

The COA report also said the government stands to lose an estimated income of P1.27 billion in seven years from the transfer of GSIS funds from LBP to UBP.

The GSIS e-card project was aimed at providing easier and paperless transactions for GSIS members in their application for loans and benefits. (MNS)