Editorial: Stealing big pays?-A A +A
Tuesday, January 29, 2013
THE Sandiganbayan decision to dismiss the complaint filed against former Lapu-Lapu City Mayor Arturo Radaza and 12 other officials in relation to the purchase of obviously overpriced lampposts in time for Cebu’s hosting of the 12th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Summit in January 2007 carried the phrase “without prejudice.”
This was the same phrase Deputy Ombudsman for the Visayas Pelagio Apostol repeated a number of times in a radio dyLA interview probably to cushion the impact of the ruling, especially on public perception of the anti-graft body’s ability to prosecute erring government officials.
The Office of the Ombudsman can re-file the case after it corrects the procedural lapses it committed when it went to court against Radaza and other officials for violating the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act by entering into a contract disadvantageous to the government. But the damage—and the delay—has been done.
What “lost” the case for the ombudsman was its admission on the need to substantiate its allegations, prompting the Sandiganbayan to conclude that no probable cause exists to warrant its filing. That’s a sorry admission considering how slowly the case had moved.
Now they talk about re-filing the case. If the anti-graft office failed to investigate satisfactorily the irregularity and gather enough evidence to make the case stand in court when the crime was freshly committed, can it do better six years later when recollection of the event has gone hazy and proof has been buried by time?
Apostol also eased public concerns by noting that only one case was dismissed by the Sandiganbayan while there are still pending cases against Radaza and other respondents awaiting resolution. But considering the tone of the ruling on the dismissed case, one wonders how strong are the pending cases that Apostol mentioned.
The discovery of the anomaly in the purchase of the decorative lampposts shocked public sensibilities not only because officials dared to commit it but also for the shameless manner the pricing was done. It symbolized the impunity that blanketed governance under the administration of former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
The frustrating manner the lampposts cases are moving in court props up the notion that, in this country, stealing big from public coffers pays.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on January 29, 2013.