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Ombudsman Visayas pours out outrage

It ain’t over for case of overpriced lamp posts

By Jhunnex Napallacan
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 02:39:00 03/22/2009

Filed Under: Laws, Judiciary (system of justice)

CEBU CITY ? The dismissal of one of the cases on the overpriced lamp post controversy has Visayas Deputy Ombudsman Pelagio Apostol up in arms.

Apostol slammed on Friday prosecutor Danilo Lopez for saying before the Sandiganbayan 2nd Division that the Ombudsman has no evidence against the respondents and the case had defects because it was filed due to pressure from the media.

The Sandiganbayan 2nd Division dismissed criminal case No. 271 filed against businessman Isabelo Braza, owner of Fabmik Construction and Equipment Supply Co. Inc., one of the suppliers of the allegedly overpriced lamp posts, after Lopez moved to withdraw the case for lack of evidence against the accused.

P365-million project

The lamp posts were installed in the cities of Mandaue, Lapu-Lapu, and Cebu for the Association of Southeast Asian (ASEAN) summit in 2006 and were worth about P365 million.

?I condemn this type of statement. That is an irresponsible statement. What does he think of us? We are just harassing the respondents? It?s not easy to file a case against the respondents because they have protection (under the law),? Apostol said in an interview here.

He said the statement of Lopez was unfair to personnel of the Visayas Ombudsman who had worked hard for the filing of the case.

Apostol also said they would pursue the cases on the overpriced lamp posts before the Sandiganbayan but they would also ask Lopez to inhibit himself from handling the cases.

Hostile prosecutor

?The Visayas Ombudsman will no longer agree that he prosecute (the overpriced lamp post cases),? Apostol said.

He maintained that Lopez appeared to be hostile against the lamp post case.

?It?s time that Prosecutor Lopez should inhibit,? he added.

At the same time, Apostol said the Visayas Ombudsman would assign somebody from their office to attend the hearings in Manila.

?Because of this development, I will assign someone on the case who will attend each hearing,? he said, adding that he might send assistant Ombudsman Virginia Palanca-Santiago, a feisty member of the graft investigating body.

Apostol also said they would seek an investigation of Lopez for having issued the statements without consulting the Visayas Ombudsman.

On Thursday, Apostol expressed surprise over the dismissal but expressed dismay over the development when he received and read the Sandiganbayan order on Friday.

Reinvestigation

He clarified that the Visayas Ombudsman was still conducting a reinvestigation and preliminary investigation of four other cases on the allegedly overpriced lamp posts, which were remanded to their office by the Sandiganbayan.

The Ombudsman had withdrawn criminal cases No. 270, 275 and 273 for reinvestigation while criminal case No. 272 was dismissed by the Sandiganbayan 4th Division but without prejudice to the re-filing of the case after the reinvestigation.

Apostol said they have almost completed the reinvestigation of the four cases, adding that they are planning to consolidate all the cases.

He said they would also look at the possibility of re-filing the case against Braza, as well as the filing of a petition for certiorari before the Supreme Court for the reversal of the Sandiganbayan order.

Investigators found the lamp posts overpriced by more than 100 percent.

Some of the lamp posts are now useless as these are not lighted anymore.

Some ended up being installed on private property.



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