Ex-DPWH officials in ASEAN street-lighting projects get 6-8 years in prison

Adrian Ayalin, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 01 2020 08:09 PM

MANILA - Former Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) officials in Region 7, as well as a private contractor, were found guilty of graft by the Sandiganbayan 6th Division in connection with street-lighting projects in the province of Cebu for the 2007 Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit.

Then-DPWH Regional Director Robert Lala and Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) members Pureza Fernandez and Agustinito Hermoso, as well as GAMPIK Construction and Development Inc Chairman Gerado Surla, were sentenced to 6 to 8 years imprisonment for 4 street-lighting projects which cost P35.634 million.

In the information filed by the Office of the Ombudsman, the projects, which included the supply and installation of lights, decorative lamps, lanterns and other traffic control devices in Lapu-Lapu City, were overpriced by P12.628 million.

The anti-graft court said that the prosecution was able to establish that a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was prematurely and illegally executed on Nov. 22, 2006 between the DPWH-Region 7 and Gampik, casting doubt on the validity of the bidding for the projects 6 days after.

“The act of predetermining a contractor in anticipation of the result of the actual bidding certainly constitutes manifest partiality, or, at the very least, gross inexcusable negligence on the part of the accused,” the court said in its decision promulgated on Sept. 29, 2020. 

The ruling was penned by Associate Justice Kevin Narce Vivero, with the concurrence of Division Chairperson Sarah Jane Fernandez and Associate Justice Karl Miranda.

The co-accused of the 4 who were also regional officials of the DPWH and BAC members -- namely Marlina Alvizo, Cresencio Bagolor, Luis Galang, Ayaon Manggis, Marilyn Ojeda and Teresa Bernido -- were acquitted because it was not proven that they were aware of the MOU or participated in the predetermination of GAMPIK as the winning bidder.

In their related graft case involving similar street-lighting projects in Mandaue City, all of the accused, including BAC member Buenaventurada Pajo, were acquitted for failure of the prosecution to prove their guilt beyond reasonable.

The court said that the grounds common for the 2 cases for the alleged irregularity, such as the alleged failure to publish the invitations to bid, the alleged inability of GAMPIK to bid for electrical works, and the alleged deficiency in GAMPIK’s cash deposit certificates, were not successfully proven. 

For the 2 cases, the court also decided that no civil liability may be adjudged against all of the accused as the act or omission from which the civil liability might arise did not exist.

“Since no payment was released by the government with respect to the subject contract, no civil liability is adjudged against the accused,” the court said.

For those who were not convicted by the court, the hold departure orders issued against them were ordered lifted and the bonds they posted were ordered released.