DPWH execs seek dismissal of Cebu lamp post case

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 28 2011 08:22 PM | Updated as of Mar 29 2011 04:22 AM

MANILA, Philippines - Nine officials of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) have asked the Sandiganbayan Fifth Division to junk a graft case filed against them by the Office of the Ombudsman in connection with the P164.5-million lamppost deal for the 12th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit in Cebu in 2007.

In their 22-page motion dated March 15, the defendants led by former DPWH Region 7 regional director Robert Lala, argued that the case should be dismissed outright instead of simply ordering the Ombudsman to conduct a new preliminary investigation.

 The other movants are acting chief of the DPWH maintenance division Pureza Fernandez; bids and awards committee chair Marlina Alvizo; acting maintenance division chief Cresencio Bagolor; regional legal officer Agustinito Hermoso; planning and design division chief Luis Galang; administrative division chief Restitutio Diano; and construction division chief Buenaventura Pajo.

They noted that in its resolution issued last February 14, the court observed that the accused were deprived of the opportunity to question evidence against them as they were denied access to records of the complaint including documents that were used as basis for the alleged overpricing of the lampposts.

 “There is no dispute that the Ombudsman violated due process. In putting the accused to face criminal prosecution knowing that the findings were actually incomplete already caused ignominy to the accused and putting them to another round of investigation where the Ombudsman would only gather more evidence against them is most unfair,” the defendants said.

They likewise invoked the ruling of the Second Division dated July 16, 2009 wherein a separate graft case concerning the same deal was dismissed with prejudice as the said division cited the prosecution’s admission in open court that they were forced to file the indictment even if there was incomplete evidence due to “pressure from the press.”

At the time of filing, the Ombudsman submitted a resolution containing the findings that there was “an exorbitant jacking up of the suppliers’ cost to the purchase price or acquisition cost the government was made to pay… (I)t can be said straightforwardly that there is overpricing. To jack up the cost this much is tantamount to undue enrichment at government expense. The contracts, therefore, are manifestly and grossly disadvantageous to the government."

 However, in seeking withdrawal of the charges, prosecutors admitted that “the information … covers only the price for lamp posts excluding labor costs, transportation costs and other expenses incident to the installation of the lamp posts.”

They acknowledged that based on evidence at hand “it would be very difficult to prove that the said contract entered into by the Government was indeed manifestly and grossly disadvantageous as the entire contract should be taken into consideration to prove the commission of the crime.”