EXPLAINER: Lapu-Lapu ex-mayor Arturo Radaza argued he had no part in awarding P83.9M streetlamps contract and the government didn't suffer loss or injury. Sandiganbayan struck down his defenses.

FORMER Lapu-Lapu City mayor Arturo O. Radaza was among 13 Lapu-Lapu City and Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) officials who were convicted of corruption by the Sandiganbayan in connection with the P83.935 million purchase of 199 decorative street lamps for the 2007 Asean Summit held in Cebu last January 9-15, 2007.

His participation, Radaza argued, was limited to signing the POWE or program of work and estimates with the word “Noted.” He said his signature was "not even necessary" for the project.

Besides, he said, there was no injury to the government as payment to the supplier/contractor Fabmik Construction & Equipment Supply Inc. had been stopped. Still, along with the dozen others, the then city mayor (from 2001 to 2010) was found guilty.

'GUILTY' 13. Those convicted also included former DPWH regional director Robert G. Lala and assistant regional director Marlina S. Alvizo; the mayor's city engineer Julito H. Cuizon and assistant city engineer Rogelio D. Veloso; and Isabelo A. Braza of the contractor/supplier Fabmik Construction & Equipment Supply Co. Inc.

They were each given a jail sentence of from six years and one month to 10 years and perpetual disqualification from public office. They may appeal the conviction to the Supreme Court.

The 174-page decision of Sandiganbayan's Seventh Division was penned by Associate Justice Georgina D. Hidalgo and concurred with by AJ/Chairperson Ma. Theresa Dolores C. Gomez-Estoesta and AJ Zaldy Z. Trespeces. The ruling, promulgated on December 2 and publicized last December 12, tells how the deciders viewed Radaza's defense, thus:

[] 'CONSPIRACY, SHAM.' The court found conspiracy among the accused, rejecting the argument that Radaza's and other City Hall officials' participation was merely part of their job. What they did went "beyond the mere act of signing."

The court said the project and procurement, including "a bogus bidding," were "a grand scheme perpetrated by all the accused." The prosecution, the ruling said, proved that the accused city and DPWH officials "conspired and confederated" with accused Braza of Fabmik.

The court found that Radaza (also the city's congressman from 2010-2013) was "equally responsible in this debacle." "His conflicting claims belie good faith." He didn't just write "Noted" on the estimates, he was "one of those who selected the design"; he was "the one who 'suggested' the use of the Mandaue POWE," which was testified to by a witness: "Due to the time element, just get a copy from Mandaue City." There were no time constraints, the court said.

Radaza also approved the plans and specifications for the street lamps, which the mayor "conveniently avoided mentioning... belying his assertion." The court said it was convinced that the "whole process" was "a sham" and "they knew about it early on."

[Related: Explainer: 16 years after lamps were bought for Asean Summit in Cebu, Arturo Radaza still had to be arraigned. SunStar, November 8, 2021.]

[] NO INJURY TO GOVERNMENT. The contract price of P83.935 million would've cost the government P18.045 million more as the supply and installation of the street lamps amounted to only P65.889 million.

Fabmik had not been paid because the court issued a cease-and-desist order stopping the release of payment. The court "concluded" there was "no undue injury to the government yet." Instead of making money, Fabmik, if not yet paid by the government, obviously lost money as the manufacturer of the street lamps was probably paid and the "profits" distributed already.

And yet the court found all the elements of the crime of corruption under Section 3(e) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act (Republic Act 3019 of 1961). Why? The reason, though not explicitly stated in the ruling, was that the law provides for two ways to commit the crime:

(1) Causing undue injury to any party, OR

(2) Giving any party unwarranted advantage through partiality, bad faith or negligence. Apparently the court relied on the second way.

The court said it found "more than sufficient evidence to support a finding that an unwarranted benefit was extended to Braza (of Fabmik), not just for excessive pricing but the entire project as a whole, having been awarded to him without the benefit of a legitimate procurement." The court was convinced that the project was "rigged from the very beginning," with the evidence confirmed by the "bare allegations, illogical claims, and arguments contradicted" by evidence of the accused themselves.

2020 CONVICTIONS. On September 24, 2020, the Sandiganbayan convicted three of 11 persons accused of corruption, also over streetlamps for the 2007 Asean Summit in Cebu.

They were DPWH ex-officials: regional director Robert G. Lala and then maintenance division OIC Pureza Fernandez; Agustinito Hermoso of the bids and awards committee; and Gerardo Suria of Gampik, supplier of streetlamps for Lapu-Lapu City and Mandaue City. Three of the four, excluding Suria of supplier Gampik, were also convicted in the 2022 ruling of the anti-graft court, which involves streetlamps for Lapu-Lapu alone.

GAMPIK, FABMIK. Did you notice the rhyming of names of the two suppliers: Fabmik and Gampik? The matter of names aside, while Fabmik was reportedly not paid because of the court order, Gampik was paid P43.95 million and COA in February 2017 ordered DPWH officials to return that money. No one has checked if the COA order resulted in recovering the illegally disbursed fund.


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