Ex-DPWH director cleared of graft charge

Published January 9, 2021, 11:28 AM

by Czarina Nicole Ong Ki

Oscar Dominguez Abundo, former Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) Director III of Legal Services, has been cleared by the Sandiganbayan Sixth Division of his graft charge involving the reportedly anomalous purchase of lots in 2001.

Abundo was initially slapped with a violation of Section 3(e) of Republic Act (RA) 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act over the payment of P24,299,458.34 for Lot 41 and Lot 43, both located in Barrio Makar, General Santos City, in favor of the heirs of Mohamad Bin Abdurasak despite a defect in the Department of Budget and Management’s (DBM) Special Allotment Release Order (SARO) No. 01-04392, which referred to the Davao-Bukidnon Road instead of the General Santos-Korondal Road, the subject of the payment.

In his defense, Abundo said that payment for the second installment to the heirs of Abdurasak was supported by a valid contract of sale and was authorized by the General Appropriations Act (GAA) of 2000.

Abundo added that then Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) Secretary Simeon Datumanong instructed him to issue a Certificate of Availability of Funds for the  payment, and the issuance of the certificate rectified the discrepancy in SARO No. 01-04392.

The anti-graft court found that the evidence of the prosecution is insufficient to support a finding of guilt. While Abundo indeed acted in bad faith when he facilitated the second payment, the court said the evidence is not enough to show that the bad faith committed was “evident.”

“He said that he referred the issue on the defective SARO to Secretary Datumanong for clarification but the latter told him ‘not to mind’ the same and even instructed him to communicate with the Chief Accountant to issue a Certificate of Availability of Funds,” the Sandiganbayan said in a 37-page decision.

“In this case, the prosecution failed to prove that Abundo acted with manifest partiality and evident bad faith in facilitating and causing the payment of second installment to the heirs of Abdurasak,” it added.

The court further said the prosecution failed in proving how the heirs of Abdurasak received unwarranted benefits, advantage or benefits in the transaction.

Contrary to the prosecution’s claims, evidence on record proved that the payment was correct and government funds were actually allocated for the payment despite the mistake in the name of the project in the second SARO.
The decision was written by Associate Justice Karl Miranda and concurred in by Sixth Division Chairperson Sarah Jane Fernandez and Associate Justice Kevin Narce Vivero.