Political redemption

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By Godofredo M. Roperos

Politics also

Tuesday, January 29, 2013


ONE may well consider the subject of today’s headline in this daily as something more personal than political. Clearly, as the Court had pointed out, only the price of the lamppost was made the basis of the complaint filed against the defendants in the most celebrated case of corruption in public office committed in January 2007. It was about the reported overpricing of decorative lampposts.

In a decision dated Jan. 17, 2013, the Sandiganbayan said the prosecution “failed to submit enjough 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.

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At any rate, the respondents of the case were reportedly then Lapu-Lapu City mayor Arturo Radaza and about a dozen high officials of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH}, including the city engineer of Lapu-Lapu and the Fabmik Construction president.

A couple of months after the case was filed in 2007, I was in Manila for a few days in our office at the Manila Times, and I was able to meet with some media friends. Through them, I gathered the “possibility” that the people who made the lamppost deal used some officials as allies to accomplish the scam as a sort of “political” surrogates.

They made a rather good killing in Manila, while the Cebu end did not make anything at all, except becoming the whipping post.

The dismissal of the case hinged on the fact that the complaint was gravely defective in that the quoted price of the lamppost was only for the unit itself and did not include the labor cost, cost of transportation and other expenses incurred for their installation.

The decision said that, “the Ombudsman admitted the need to conduct further investigations to substantiate the allegation that the contract entered into by the accused was indeed manifestly and grossly disadvantageous to the government.” It would thus indicate “that there was no probable cause to warrant the filing of the case herein.”

Now, looking more closely at the decision, I would say that it was pure luck or an act of fate that the deficiencies in the preparation of the complaint “happened” as they did.

Otherwise, the defendants in the instant case would now be in jail.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on January 29, 2013.

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