Fight not over: 5 cases still pending
“The fight is not over yet,” said Deputy Ombudsman for the Visayas Pelagio Apostol after the Sandiganbayan dismised the graft case against Lapu-Lapu City Rep. Arturo Radaza and nine other persons for the purchase of decorative lampposts that were allegedly overpriced.
Of seven cases filed in the Sandiganbayan over the lampposts, five remain in the anti-graft court.
Radaza was accused in only one case as mayor of Lapu-Lapu City, one of the locations where 1,800 lampposts were installed along with Mandaue and Cebu cities when Cebu hosted the summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) in 2007.
“This is just a temporary setback. Let us be vigilant,” Apostol told reporters yesterday. He assured that they had strong evidence against the remaining respondents, who include Provincial Board Member Thadeo Ouano, who was then Mandaue city mayor, and former regional officials of the Dept. of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and two private contractors.
Ouano was named in two cases. One case was dismissed.
“People should not forget about this case”, Apostol said since the lampposts were “symbols of corruption in Cebu”.
Most of the decorative lamps, part of a P365 million DPWH national project for the ASEAN Summit, are already dilapidated, vandalized or non-functioning.
Apostol cited a news report that the Sandiganbayan dismissed the case against Radaza without prejudice to the refiling of another case if evidence warrants.
With this, Apostol said the possibility remains that the Ombudsman can reinvestigate, refile the case or even file a petition for certiorari with the Supreme Court, depending on the decision of his superiors.
In the 15-page decision dated Jan. 16, 2013 the Sandiganbayan said”The refusal of the Ombudsman to furnish them (respondent) with the missing pages is highly irregular which is prejudicial to the interest of the movants to effectively prepare their counter-affidavit.”
Congressman Radaza , in a statement, thanked the Sandiganbayan for its decision.
“At last the Court heard us when we questioned the conduct of the probe in 2007 because we were deprived of our legal rights to answer the complaints,” said Radaza.
He said this exposed the haphazard conduct of the probe and showed that “we are not a party of the project” which was funded, approved and implemented by the national government.
Apostol yesterday said the “missing pages” were actually in the records of the case. He said they first refused to give the documents to the respondent because they felt these were not relevant to their reply. He said the documents were actually given during the second preliminary investigation when the cases were returned.
Apostol explained that “The investigation of these cases started before I assumed office. It was just during my time when these cases were filed before the Sandiganbayan.”
“Even a sidewalk vendor can determine that there was irregularity in the purchase of these lampposts. Just do not take into consideration the technicalities,” Apostol added.
Four of the seven graft cases were earlier returned to the Visayas Ombudsman for further investigation and were later refiled, but Radaza’s case was not one of the “rehabilitated” cases.
Other than Radaza, the Sandiganabayn also cleared Robert Lala, Gloria Dindin, Marlina Alvizo, Pureza Fernandez, Cresencio Bagolor, Augustinito Hermoso, Luis Galang, and Restituto Diano—all former DPWH officials – as well as local government engineers Hedelisa Latonio, Gregorio Omo, Mario Gerolaga, Julito Cuizon, and Rogelio Veloso. /Ador Vincent Mayol, Reporter with reports from Jhunnex Napallacan and Norman V. Mendoza
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