Ex-NIA chief convicted of graft | Inquirer News

Ex-NIA chief convicted of graft

/ 05:05 AM June 28, 2022
The Sandiganbayan has allowed the heirs of late former president Ferdinand Marcos, including his son, namesake and now President-elect Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., to present their defense for an ill-gotten wealth case, setting aside a 1996 resolution defaulting their appearance.

Sandiganbayan in Quezon City. (File photo by NIÑO JESUS ORBETA / Philippine Daily Inquirer)

MANILA, Philippines — The Sandiganbayan has convicted former National Irrigation Administration (NIA) head Carlos Salazar of graft and sentenced him to six to eight years in jail for bypassing the necessary procedures for the 2009 construction of the Libmanan-Cabusao Diversion Dam in Bicol.

Salazar was also perpetually disqualified from holding public office.


As a civil liability, the Sandiganbayan’s Fifth Division ordered him to pay the government, particularly NIA, P98.5 million, which was equivalent to the amount released as advance payment for the dam project, according to the court’s 61-page decision promulgated on June 24.

The decision was penned by Associate Justice Rafael Lagos, also the division chair, with concurrence of Associate Justices Maria Theresa Mendoza-Arcega and Maryann Corpus-Mañalac.


The dam project had an approved budget of P712.3 million, which was above the P500-million threshold and thus needed to be presented to the National Economic Development Authority-Investment Coordination Committee (Neda-ICC) for approval.

In 2008, the NIA under Salazar held a public bidding with A.M. Oreta and Co., Inc. submitting the lowest bid for the dam project worth P700,777,700 and was eventually awarded the contract.

When the project was presented to Joey Salceda, then chair of the Regional Development Council of Bicol Region, he said there should be prior approval from the Neda-ICC and an environmental compliance certificate from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

The NIA issued a check in 2009 to the contractor worth P49.2 million as partial payment. Upon A.M. Oreta’s request, another check—also amounting P49.2 million — representing the balance of the 15 percent advance payment net of withholding taxes, was released months after by the NIA then under Salazar.

The Commission on Audit then required the NIA to submit the necessary requirements to support the 15 percent advance payment made to A.M. Oreta.

But the NIA merely said that the construction of the dam was a “priority project” of then-President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo “and due to time constraints, the NIA proceeded with the procurement pending approval of the Neda-ICC,” as well as the issuance of the Department of Budget and Management’s multi-year obligational authority.

The construction of the dam project, however, was later suspended by Salazar after residents of Sipocot and Lupi towns in Camarines Sur strongly opposed the project.


Charged along with Salazar was Ricardo Khan Jr., A.M. Oreta’s vice president for engineering, who was acquitted by the Sandiganbayan after state prosecutors failed to prove his guilt beyond reasonable doubt.


Graft case filed vs former irrigation chief, 2 others over CamSur dam

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