To sustain a conviction under Section 3(g) of Republic Act No. 3019, it must be clearly proven that 1) the accused is a public officer; 2) the public officer entered into a contract or transaction on behalf of the government; and 3) the contract or transaction was grossly and manifestly disadvantageous to the government.
From the foregoing, it is clear that the Sandiganbayan did not err in ruling that the evidence presented warranted a verdict of conviction. Petitioner is a public officer, who approved the transactions on behalf of the government, which thereby suffered a substantial loss. The discrepancy between the prices of the SLTDs purchased by the DECS and the samples purchased by the COA audit team clearly established such undue injury. Indeed, the discrepancy was grossly and manifestly disadvantageous to the government.
We must emphasize however, that the lack of a public bidding and the violation of an administrative order do not by themselves satisfy the third element of Republic Act No. 3019, Section 3(g); namely, that the contract or transaction entered into was manifestly and grossly disadvantageous to the government, as seems to be stated in the Resolution of the Sandiganbayan denying the Motion for Reconsideration. Lack of public bidding alone does not result in a manifest and gross disadvantage. Indeed, the absence of a public bidding may mean that the government was not able to secure the lowest bargain in its favor and may open the door to graft and corruption. Nevertheless, the law requires that the disadvantage must be manifest and gross. Penal laws are strictly construed against the government.
If the accused is to be sent to jail, it must be because there is solid evidence to pin that person down, not because of the omission of a procedural matter alone. Indeed, all the elements of a violation of Section 3(g) of Republic Act No. 3019 should be established to prove the culpability of the accused. In this case, there is a clear showing that all the elements of the offense are present. Thus, there can be no other conclusion other than conviction.
We note, however, that petitioner was sentenced to suffer the penalty of six (6) years and one (1) day as minimum to twelve (12) years and one (1) day as maximum. Under Section 9 of Republic Act 3019, petitioner should be punished with imprisonment of not less than six (6) years and one (1) month nor more than fifteen years. Thus, we adjust the minimum penalty imposed on petitioner in accordance with the law.