Ex-LRTA chief Robles pleads not guilty to graft
Former Light Rail Transit Authority (LRTA) administrator Melquiades Robles on Tuesday pleaded not guilty to his graft charge over an anomalous maintenance and janitorial contract in 2009.
Robles attended his scheduled arraignment before the Sandiganbayan Fifth Division and pleaded not guilty as his charge was read out to him in court.
His graft arraignment pushed through as the anti-graft court Fifth Division earlier found no merit in Robles’ motion for judicial determination of probable cause to dismiss his graft case over an anomalous maintenance and janitorial contract which allegedly caused P12.8 million injury to government.
READ: Ex-LRTA chief Robles to face graft trial in janitorial case
“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 then said.
READ: Ex-LRTA chief wants graft case dropped for lack of probable cause
Robles claimed there was no probable cause for the court to try him for graft over the allegedly 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.
Robles and members of the LRTA Technical Working Group and Special Bids and Awards Committee were accused 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 terms 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, the prosecution.
READ: Ex-LRTA chief: Cutting janitors legal
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.
In 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. IDL/rga
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