Sandiganbayan affirms conviction of five DPWH-6

By: Gerome Dalipe

THE conviction of five former officials of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) in Western Visayas over the anomalous P54.37 million asphalt overlay of the Iloilo-Jaro diversion road in 2008 remains.

The Sandiganbayan denied the motion for consideration filed by the respondents, who sought to deny their conviction of up to eight years in jail.

“Mere reiteration or rehash of arguments already submitted before the court and found to be untenable cannot compel the court to modify, much less reverse, its well-studied verdict,” read the anti-graft court’s ruling.

The Sandiganbayan’s 6th Division found the five public works officials guilty of violating Sec. 3(e) of Republic Act 3019, or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

The case stemmed from the complaint filed by the Office of the Ombudsman-Visayas against the late Rolando Martin Asis, then DPWH-6 director, and his five subordinates.

The other five respondents are Berna Coca, who served as the project manager and chair of the bids and awards committee (BAC).

The four other accused are Engrs. Luvisminda Narciso, Danilo Peroy, Marilyn Celiz, and Fernando Tuares, who all acted as BAC members.

The accused initiated the project following the request of Mayor Jerry Treñas to repair the Iloilo-Jaro Diversion Road up to Dungon Bridge in time for the Dinagyang Festival in January 2008.

The BAC later awarded the contract to International Builders Corporation to repair the two-kilometer road.

The BAC resorted to negotiated procurement reportedly to finish works on the two-kilometer road in time for the annual Dinagyang Festival.

IBC, the sole contractor with asphalt batching plant in Iloilo completed the asphalt overlay project on Feb. 9, 2018.

The anti-graft office later investigated the project after state auditors confirmed that the project did not undergo public bidding.

The ombudsman then filed the graft case against the respondents before the Sandigabayan for alleged violation of the anti-graft law.

But before the trial ended, Asis died of hepatic cancer last July 6, 2017.

In their pleading, the respondents argued they acted in good faith and regularity in the performance of official functions.

There was no showing of overpricing and sub-standard civil works and that the project did not cause pecuniary injury to the government, the respondents said.

In denying the respondents’ pleading, the Sandiganbayan said it found “just cause” to dismiss the pleading.

The anti-graft court ruled the project to be “highly irregular” since it bypassed public bidding.

Likewise, the project “gained headway” and was implemented despite the lack of notice of award, the Sandiganbayan said.

The asphalt overlay was not included in the Annual Procurement Plan of the DPWH-Western Visayas for calendar year 2008 to 2009, the anti-graft court said.

“That fact is suspicious in itself, and should alert all officers genuinely minded in pursuing good and transparent government not to ignore such fact in their course of action,” read the Sandiganbayan ruling.