CEBU CITY -- A criminal case will be filed against a Maritime Industry Authority (Marina)-Central Visayas inspector who allegedly got P2.3 million that a Frenchman offered for building him a boat, complete with papers.
But, even if convicted, Engineer Lilah Rodas will spend no more than five years in jail and/or a P5,000-fine for engaging “in the private practice of her profession without authority.”
This is punishable under the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials.
The Office of the Ombudsman-Visayas ordered the suspension of Rodas for a month without pay, though, for simple misconduct.
“It is clear that the actuation of Rodas is a deviation from the established norms of conduct required of a public servant,” said Graft Investigator Corazon Arnado-Carrillo.
Patrick Renaud, a French national who lives in the country under a special resident retiree’s visa, filed the complaint against Rodas.
He said he was introduced to Rodas in March 2006 and that he had tapped her for requirements and procedures in building a boat.
Rodas allegedly recommended a boat company that could do the job and assured Renaud he could have it registered under his name. She also reportedly said she could “take care of the documentation and that it will not be difficult as she will be the one to inspect it.”
Renaud said he signed an agreement with Rodas sometime in March.
The agreement bound Rodas to build the boat within four months for P1.7 million, including license and other legal documents.
Renaud shelled out P200,000 after the signing and gave the rest of the payment in succeeding dates.
But while the boat was being built, Renaud made modifications like a cabin, a toilet and installed certain equipment.
He paid an additional P623,588.60, increasing the total amount Rodas received to P2.3 million.
The boat was taken to water in November 2006. But, according to Renaud, it wasn’t seaworthy.
“It was discovered that the boat was defective and totally unfit and unusable,” Renaud said.
In an e-mail, Rodas allegedly admitted there were “mistakes” in the way the boat was built and suggested corrections that would cost an additional P400,000 to P500,000.
Renaud refused to pay any more. But he said Rodas still billed him an additional P15,000 for shaft alignment and propeller repair.
He asked Rodas for a reimbursement but she refused, prompting the filing of the complaint.
In her counter-affidavit, Rodas said she wasn’t the principal party to the case but her husband, Engineer Pedro Rodas, who knew boat builders in Masbate and was willing to supervise the construction.
It was Pedro who supposedly submitted the quotation but the payment was coursed through Lilah, whose name also appears in the receipts.
Lilah admitted she actively participated in the settlement of the matter.
But she clarified there was nothing wrong with the boat as originally designed and that it was the Renaud’s modifications that caused the boat’s doom.
“The boat is floatable, usable and certainly seaworthy, despite its non-completion,” she said.
Lilah said the boat, because of the changes, could indeed not be completed with the existing budget, which was a mere estimate.
Carrillo, in her ruling, first established that Lilah was the contracted party, not Pedro.
She was sought because of her position and it was she who received the payments. On the other hand, Pedro wasn’t even a boat builder by profession.
Still, Carrillo said Lilah could not be held for criminal violations of Republic Act (RA) 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act because of Renaud’s own admission that the boat was never finished.
Since the boat was never finished, something that Lilah did not deny, registering and securing all other licenses for the boat -- the actual government transaction with Marina -- never took place.
“(Lilah) was not discharging her official duties when she transacted business with Renaud,” Carrillo said.
Also, the anti-graft office did not find evidence that the government was prejudiced by the transaction, or that somebody benefited from it.
“There is no statement from Renaud that Lilah requested or received from him any gift, present or other material or other pecuniary benefit in consideration of the help given or to be given to secure or obtain any government license for the boat,” read Carrillo’s resolution.
The incident also didn’t qualify as estafa because there was no clear agreement as to the quality of the boat to be built.
However, Carrillo found basis to penalize Lilah administratively under RA 3019.
The provision penalizes the act of “requesting or receiving any gift, present or other pecuniary or material benefit” from any person who has secured or obtained, or will secure or obtain, any government permit or license, in consideration for the help given or to be given.”
Carrillo said the money Lilah received for the boat covered the expense of licensing and registration, which is a service provided by her office.
Being a Marina inspector, Lilah was part of the unit that would inspect the boat and the office that would issue the registration. (KNR of Sun.Star Cebu)