Ex-LRTA chief Robles to face graft trial in janitorial case
Former Light Rail Transit Authority (LRTA) administrator Melquiades Robles faces trial for graft over an anomalous maintenance and janitorial contract after the Sandiganbayan junked his appeal to dismiss the case.
The Sandiganbayan Fifth Division found no merit in Robles’ motion for judicial determination of probable cause to dismiss his graft case over the janitorial contract which allegedly caused P12.8 million injury to government.
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The court had found probable cause to try Robles for graft on Feb 27, long before Robles filed his motion. The court then treated the motion as his motion for reconsideration.
In its latest resolution promulgated May 9, the anti-graft court said it found no reason to reverse its earlier resolution finding probable cause, adding that the arguments raised by Robles are best threshed out during trial.
“Despite the accused’s protestations, this Court finds no compelling reason to reverse said earlier finding of probable cause. Instead, the issues raised in these motions for determination of probable cause are matters of defense that could only be threshed out in a full-blown trial on the merits,” the court said.
READ: Ex-LRTA chief wants graft case dropped for lack of probable cause
The court added that it would be “premature” to dismiss the case when the merits can only be discussed during trial.
The court thus set Robles’ arraignment for graft on June 13.
The resolution was penned by division chairperson Associate Justice Rafael Lagos and concurred by members Associate Justices Reynaldo Cruz and Maria Theresa Mendoza-Arcega.
In his motion, Robles said there is no probable cause for the court to try him for graft over the alleged disadvantageous joint venture contract with COMM Builders and Technology Philippines Corporation, PMP Incorporated and Gradski Soabracaj GRAS.
LRTA in 2009 entered into the P400 million contract for the corrective maintenance of the trains, rails and depot facilities of LRT Line 1.
Under the contract, the joint venture was mandated to deploy at least 793 workers and janitors to the areas of the LRT line stations and rolling stocks.
Prosecutors accused Robles and members of the LRTA Technical Working Group and Special Bids and Awards Committee of graft for acting with evident bad faith, manifest partiality and gross inexcusable negligence for giving undue advantage to the joint venture contract when the LRTA paid P3.373 million per month in 2009 for the deployment of 219 janitors, even though the term of contract require a minimum number of 321 janitors.
READ: Former LRT execs face graft raps over janitorial service deal
This effectively modified the terms of the contract with the joint venture, causing undue injury to government in the amount of P1.072 million per month for a total of P12.864 million in 2009 alone.
Robles through his lawyers said there is no basis in fact and in law that the contract was disadvantageous to government.
He said that the prosecutors’ claim that the underdelivery of manpower was corroborated by a database record of the human resources department could not be ascertained because this database was not attached in the Field Investigation Office (FIO) complaint against Robles.
READ: Ex-LRTA chief: Cutting janitors legal
“The fact that the alleged database record was neither attached nor subsequently submitted by the FIO before the Ombudsman reveal a glaring truth: that there is no database to speak of,” his motion read.
This meant that the allegation that only 219 janitors applied for gate passes “is, in reality, anchored on nothing but thin air.”
Robles also insisted that the underdelivery of janitors which applied for gate passes in 2011 happened outside his term. Robles’ stint as LRTA administrator ended in 2010.
“Robles was no longer a part of LRTA when the supposed anomaly happened,” his motion read.
Robles said the allegation of underdelivery of personnel “is clearly unsubstantiated; at best, such argument is a mere biased assumption.”
In the joint resolution indicting the LRTA officials, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales said the joint venture “is not justified to deviate from its minimum commitment” under the contract.
Morales said she found it “unfortunate” that the LRTA officials “aided the contractor in its desire to reduce its committed number of janitorial workforce.”
“(Robles et. al.) cannot sweepingly claim that they had regularly performed their duties because had they done so, they would not have given in to the demands of a private contractor… Instead of pushing for the implementation of the awarded contract, the respondents agreed to the reduction of janitorial manpower,” Morales added. JE/rga
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