Ombudsman junks another plunder case vs Arroyos

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Monday, April 28, 2014


THE Office of the Ombudsman on Monday junked the plunder case filed against Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapgal-Arroyo and son Camarines Sur Representative Diosdado Arroyo in connection with the Libmanan-Cabusao Dam and Skybridge 1 and 2 projects in Camarines province.

Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales approved the April 22 recommendation of the Field Investigation Office (FIO) to close and terminate the case as the evidence gathered were not enough to warrant a trial.

The report stated that "there is no evidence to show that former President Arroyo and her son directly and actively participated in the planning or implementation of the projects."

Morales cited the investigation reporter that the funding for the Libmanan-Cabusao Dam and Skybridge 1 and 2 projects did not come from the President's Social Fund or the younger Arroyo's Priority Development Assistance Fund.

She said the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) already included it as an infrastructure project in its Project Procurement Management Plan and Annual Procurement Plan for 2008, and the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) under the Design and Build Infrastructure Project Scheme in 2009.

"There is no evidence that respondents amassed, accumulated or acquired ill-gotten wealth directly or through their subordinates in the NIA and DPWH, considering that both projects were funded through the regular budget of the respective agencies; nor was there a showing that respondents demanded and received the amount of not less than P50 million as "SOP" from the projects," Morales said.

The Libmanan-Cabusao Dam project, which cost more than P700-million, covers the construction of a 10.28-kilometer diversion canal and appurtenant structures that were to service 4,000 hectares.

The project was awarded to A.M. Oreta & Co. in May 2009 but was ordered suspended by NIA Administrator Carlos Salazar in December 2009 due to strong opposition from local residents.

Based on the study of the Institute for Environmental Conservation and Research (INECAR) of the Ateneo de Naga University, the reported the probability of inundating the towns downstream could threaten the biodiversity and livelihood of the people.

Morales said that based on the investigation, the NIA relied on a 176-page feasibility study on the extensive research and technical evaluation on the dam’s viability and socio-economic impact, and an Initial Environmental Examination report on the environmental condition, issues and concerns which became the basis for the issuance of an Environmental Compliance Certificate by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

Meanwhile, the P1.16-billion contract for the Skybridge 1 and 2 project, including the road improvement aspect, was awarded to the joint venture companies of R.D. Policarpio & Co., Inc and R.D. Interior Jr., Const., but encountered problems and issues in the implementation thereof that caused delay and additional cost.

The case stemmed from the complaint filed in March 2013 by the group militant lawyer Roberto "Argee" Gueverra of Sanlakas party-list.

Complainants alleged that the Arroyo legislators committed plunder "directly or through their subordinates at NIA and DPWH as dummies, by taking material possession and then disposing freely of billions of pesos of taxpayer's money packaged by respondent Gloria Arroyo as birthday gift to her son [in September 2008], but which in application meant their use of these funds or government assets to promote and/or finance Dato's electoral bid for the 2nd District of Camarines Sur in the May 2010 Elections," thereby "giving her son unwarranted benefits by announcing that she had lined-up a total of P3-billion worth of projects for Dato’s district, a year and half before the May 2010 elections… in a project which is manifestly and grossly disadvantageous to the government."

Morales also approved the FIO's recommendation to conduct further investigation to inquire into the regularity and proprietary of the acts of government officials responsible in the planning and implementation of the Libmanan-Cabusao Dam and Skybridge 1 and 2 projects. (Sunnex)

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