Court clears lawmaker, DPWH over ‘lamppost scam’-A A +A
Monday, January 28, 2013
CEBU CITY -- The anti-graft court dismissed a complaint filed against Lapu-Lapu City Representative Arturo Radaza and 12 other officials in relation to the purchase of allegedly overpriced lampposts in 2007.
In a decision dated January 17, 2013, the Sandiganbayan said the prosecution failed to submit enough evidence to prove the officials violated the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, which prohibits public officials from entering into contracts or transactions grossly disadvantageous to the government.
The case stemmed from an investigation launched by the anti-graft office on the purchase of decorative lampposts that were installed along the streets of Cebu, Mandaue and Lapu-Lapu for the hosting of the 12th Association of Southeast Asian Nations Summit in January 2007.
Graft investigators and state auditors said the government lost more than P45 million as a result of the alleged anomaly.
The respondents in the case were Radaza, who was then mayor of Lapu-Lapu; Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) officials Robert Lala, Gloria Dindin, Marlina Alvizo, Pureza Fernandez, Agustinito Hermoso, Luis Galang, Restituto Diano, Buenaventura Pajo; Julito Cuizon, Fernando Tagaan Jr. and Rogelio Veloso of the Lapu-Lapu City Engineer’s Office; and Isabelo Braza, president of Fabmik Construction and Equipment Supply Company Inc.
The 15-page decision was promulgated last week by Associate Justice Napoleon Inoturan, with the concurrence of Chairperson Roland Jurado and Associate Justice Alexander Gesmundo.
The decision pointed out that the Office of the Ombudsman “admitted the need to conduct further investigation to substantiate the allegation that the contract entered into the by the accused was indeed manifestly and grossly disadvantageous to the government.”
The Ombudsman also admitted that the information on the cases covers only the price for lampposts and excludes the labor costs, transportation costs and other expenses incurred for the installation of the lampposts.
“Said admissions would thus indicate that there was no probable cause to warrant the filing of the case herein,” the decision read.
It pointed out that information on labor costs, transportation costs and other expenses are crucial in proving that the officials entered into a contract “manifestly and grossly disadvantageous” to the government.
These costs should have been discovered during the preliminary investigation. “However, the prosecution failed to take all relevant data into consideration,” read the decision.
The Sandiganbayan also questioned the Ombudsman for refusing to release copies of certain documents that several of the accused had requested.
The refusal of the Ombudsman to furnish copies of the documents deprived the respondents of their right to examine the evidence submitted by the complainant, the decision said.
It added that the refusal was “highly irregular” and hampered the respondents from effectively preparing their counter-affidavit.
The Sandiganbayan ordered that the bonds posted by the accused be returned. The hold-departure orders issued against them were also ordered cancelled. (Sun.Star Cebu)
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on January 28, 2013.