Sandiganbayan clears 3 town execs of graft raps

Former Sara, Iloilo Mayor Neptali Salcedo

By: Gerome Dalipe

THE Sandiganbayan has cleared three officials of Sara, Iloilo of allegations that they conspired to carry out overpriced road projects in 2006.

The anti-graft court dismissed for want of evidence the graft charges against former mayor Neptali Salcedo, former municipal treasurer Edna Pacrim, and then town engineer Roel Salcedo.

“The prosecution’s evidence fails to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the projects are undertaken by the local government of Sara, Iloilo was attended by any illegality,” the Sandiganbayan’s ruling read.

The case stemmed from the complaint filed former Iloilo’s Fifth district Rep. Niel Tupas, Jr., who accused the respondents of implementing the overpriced new farm-to-market roads worth P300,000 in 2006. The projects were funded by the office of Sen. Franklin Drilon.

The construction of new farm-to-market roads from Brgys. Domingo to Muyco, and from Sitios Kapinayan, Domingo to Sincua in Lemery worth P200,000.

But Tupas said the project merely entailed repair works of existing roads, and not the construction of a new one, which would have valued at only P103,488.

Thus, Tupas alleged the project caused damage to the government amounting to P96,512.00.

Likewise, Tupas said the municipal government released P100,000 for the construction of a farm-to-market road from Sitios Kapinayan, Domingo to Sincua, Lemery.

But the same repair works were done on the existing road, and not the construction of new roads worth only P51,744. Therefore, the said injury caused to the government reached P48,256.

In the decision, the Sandiganbayan ruled the prosecution failed to present evidence to prove the respondents’ guilt.

The prosecution made no attempt to introduce any piece of evidence other than those derived from the auditors’ annual report to prove their claims, the anti-graft court said.

“The prosecution’s evidence failed to establish the basis for its claim that the funds disbursed by the local government of Sara, Iloilo, were intended for the construction of new farm-to-market roads and, that accused only made repairs to old or existing roads,” the ruling read.