5 found guilty of graft in megadike case

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 14 2011 05:32 PM | Updated as of Jan 15 2011 01:32 AM

MANILA, Philippines - Former Public Works Secretary Florante Soriquez and 4 other DPWH engineers were found guilty of graft for alleged criminal negligence in connection with the failure of a section of the P38.29 million Pampanga Megadike on August 3, 1996 that buried 3 towns under water and lahar.
 
In an 80-page Decision penned by Associate Justice Roland B. Jurado, the Sandiganbayan Fifth Division on Friday sentenced Soriquez and project supervising engineers Rey S. David, Ulysis Manago, Juan M. Gonzales and Gil A. Rivera to 6-9 years imprisonment with perpetual disqualification from holding public office.
 
They were also ordered to indemnify the government in the amount of P12.7 million corresponding to the cost of the construction of the megadike section that collapsed.
 
Associate Justices Teresita V. Diaz-Baldos and Napoleon E. Inoturan concurred with the ruling.
 
Soriquez was program director of the Mt. Pinatubo Rehabilitation – Project Management Office (MPR-PMO) when the megadike failed.
 
“The prosecution was able to prove that accused Soriquez, and DPWH engineers were inexcusably negligent in implementing the megadike project. Obviously, accused program director and DPWH engineers and inspector failed to comply with these rules (on construction specification). If they had so complied, they would have known the volume of lahar and floodwater it could contain, the structure’s stability or whether or not seepage may occur,” the court declared.
 
Private defendants Ariel T. Lim, chief executive officer of contractor Atlantic Erectors Inc., and his co-officials Neil Allan T. Mary, Alberto Teolengco and Remigio Angtia Jr. were acquitted for lack of evidence.
 
Prosecutors questioned why the MPR-PMO, the agency tasked to oversee the project, released payment of P12.7 million to Atlantic Erectors despite the contractor’s non-compliance with structural standards.
 
But in a separate decision last October 13, the graft court’s First Division acquitted DPWH Bureau of Design director Bienvenido C. Leuterio; Engineers Gregorio O. Carillo, Gilberto S. Reyes,  Pedro P. Tercino,  Raymundo G. Adawag and Darius F. de Guzman; DPWH-BoD Hydraulic Division chief Sofia T. Santiago; and  Design Section officer-in-charge Ramon F. Velasquez, saying it is more inclined to believe that the damage was caused by faulty construction rather than poor design.