Prosecutors nix reopening Soriquez's graft trial

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 06 2011 08:39 PM | Updated as of Apr 07 2011 04:39 AM

MANILA, Philippines - Deputy Special Prosecutor John I.C. Turalba has opposed a defense motion to reopen the trial of former Public Works Secretary Florante Soriquez and project supervising engineers Rey S. David, Ulysis Manago, Juan M. Gonzales, and Gil A. Rivera, who were found guilty of graft by the Sandiganbayan Fifth Division.

Turalba said the defendants based their motion on issues that were already analyzed by the graft court in its decision finding them guilty of negligence for allowing deviations from the original plan of the Pampanga Megadike project.

The failure to comply with project specifications, according to the court, was the cause of the breach of a section Pampanga Megadike on August 3, 1996, which buried 3 towns under water and lahar.

The defendants claimed that they agreed to a “deviation” presupposes a proposal from contractor Atlantic Erectors Inc.

But since no evidence was introduced during the trial that there was any such offer from the contractor, the 4 then argued that “there is absolutely no factual and logical basis” for the court to convict them.

Turalba said the defendants are simply trying to confuse the issue.

“The act of consenting, allowing or permitting the contractor to disregard and/or deviate from the plans and specification happens, if despite the importance and magnitude of the project, said DPWH officers, by their inexcusable negligence fail to notice that the construction of the portion of the Megadike which is Package 25 did not follow the plans and specification of the project which eventually caused the breach,” the prosecutor said.

As to the defense allegation that the court made a “misapprehension of facts” on the geotechnical investigation, Turalba pointed out that the claim was unlikely since all the lawyers for the accused “exhaustively cross-examined prosecution witness, Undersecretary Edmundo Mir,” who explained the divergence from standard specifications pertaining to the Megadike project.

“Stated otherwise, the testimony of an engineering witness should have been made on surrebuttal and not when the case was already terminated and the accused had already been convicted. To allow such reopening would result to a never-ending controversy,” he stressed.

The court sentenced Soriquez and his co-accused to jail terms ranging from six to nine years with an accessory of 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 Justice Roland B. Jurado, division chairman, penned the vedict concurred in by Associate Justices Teresita V. Diaz-Baldos and Napoleon E. Inoturan. 

Soriquez was program director of the Mt. Pinatubo Rehabilitation-Project Management Office when the megadike failed.