THE Sandiganbayan has reportedly dismissed one of the four re-filed cases on the purchase of allegedly overpriced lampposts, raising doubts on just how solid the anti-

graft office’s case is.

The dismissal, a source said, came by way of the Sandiganbayan’s Third Division, chaired by Justice Francisco Villaruz. The case impleads Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) officials and contractor Gerardo Surla.

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Assistant Ombudsman Virginia Palanca-Santiago declined to comment, adding the case is being handled by the Office of the Special Prosecutor. Assistant Ombudsman Joey de Jesus, who is in Manila, could not be reached.

But Atty. Dennis Añover, counsel for former Mandaue City mayor Thadeo Ouano, said this is just “the first of many” and that another division has dropped one of the two cases against his client.

Atty. Eusebio Avila, counsel for Lapu-Lapu City Mayor Arturo Radaza, said they are seeking a copy of the dismissal at the third division, adding the ruling may tackle issues that touch his client’s case.

Interviewed separately, Atty. Gloria Lastimosa-Dalawampu said the dismissal confirms that the anti-graft office’s case is weak.

“The mere fact that they did not include the secretary of public works and highways (Hermogenes Ebdane Jr.) indicates that the case is inherently weak,” she said.

Dalawampu represents Mandaue City Engineer Hidelisa Latonio and Assistant City Engineers Gregorio Omo, Mario Gerolaga, Aflredo Sanchez Jr. and Rosalina Denque in the case before the Sandiganbayan.

The engineers, in turn, are impleaded in two of seven lamppost cases that are spread among all five divisions of the anti-graft court.

The case that has been reportedly dismissed is Sandiganbayan case SB-08-CRM-0237 which, in turn, tackles contract 06H00048 between the DPWH and Gampik Construction and Development Corp.

It covered the supply, installation, testing and commissioning of LED bulbs, traffic signal lanterns and other traffic control devices, plus 240 decorative lampposts in Lapu-Lapu City for P35,634,401.25.

“The program of works and estimates appears to have been prepared, signed and approved by respondents DPWH 7 officials themselves,” said the resolution, signed by Santiago, Director Samuel Malazarte, and investigators Euphemia Bacalso, Philip Camiguing and Giovanni Tianero.

Malazarte has since been appointed to the judiciary, scheduled to take over the 15th branch of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) in Cebu City.

Bacalso, for her part, has recently been promoted ombudsman director in charge of prosecution.

The case impleads, among others, DPWH 7 Assistant Director Gloria Dindin Cresencio Bagolor, Pureza Fernandez, Marlina Alvizo, Atty. Agustinito Hermoso, Luis Galang, Restituto Diano, Buenaventura Pajo, Robert Lala and Gampik Construction and Development Corp.’s Surla.

The lamppost scam involves the allegedly overpriced purchase and installation of several hundred decorative lampposts from China, in time for Cebu’s hosting of the 12th Asean Summit in 2006.

The seven cases implead a total of 21 public officials, including Ouano and Radaza. (KNR)