Sandiganbayan affirms DPWH officials’ conviction over overpriced street lights

Published January 13, 2021, 12:37 PM

by Czarina Nicole Ong Ki

The Sandiganbayan Sixth Division affirmed its decision convicting three officials from the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH-VII) and a private individual of the graft charge involving the overpriced supply and installation of LED bulbs, traffic signal lantern and other traffic control devices as well as street lighting facilities in Lapu-Lapu City in 2006.

(MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)

Regional Director Robert Gingging Lala, Officer-in-Charge Chief of the Maintenance Division Pureza Anunciado Fernandez, Regional Legal Officer and BAC member Agustinto Page Hermoso, as well as GAMPIK Construction and Development Inc. Chairman of the Board Gerardo Sison Surla filed motions for reconsideration last October 2020.

Lala, Fernandez, and Hermoso illegally and prematurely entered into a memorandum of understanding with GAMPIK on November 22, 2006 and allowed the latter to proceed with the contract even before the actual bidding held on November 28, 2006.

The accused awarded GAMPIK the P35,634,401.25 contract for the supply and installation of LED bulbs, traffic signal lantern and other traffic control devices.

Lala, Fernandez and Hermoso said in their joint motion that there was no proof the project started before November 28, 2006 and they argued that GAMPIK’s determination as the lowest bidder was established through the Abstract Bids and TWG Report.

Surla, on the other hand, said that his act of signing the MOU should not be misconstrued as a conspiratorial act. He added that the charge sheet did not accuse him of pre-determining the winner of the bidding by executing a prior MOU. As a result, his right to be informed of the nature and cause of accusation against him was violated.

The anti-graft court resolved to deny their motions for lack of merit.

Contrary to their claims, the court said the prosecution was successful in proving that they predetermined GAMPIK as the winning bidder through the execution of an MOU even before the actual bidding. The defense, meanwhile, failed to present convincing evidence to rebut it.

The court added that the accused cannot “hide (behind) the cloak of presumption of regularity,” especially since the prosecution has effectively disputed it through proof of premature and unlawful execution of the MOU.

At the same time, the court affirmed that the charge sheet sufficiently stated the ultimate facts constituting the offense.

“All things considered, the evidence of the prosecution is clear and convincing. The prosecution had fulfilled the required burden of proof and accordingly disproved and overcame the constitutional presumption of innocence accorded to an accused with evidence proving guilt beyond reasonable doubt,” the resolution said.

The 15-page resolution was penned by Associate Justice Kevin Narce Vivero with the concurrence of Sixth Division Chairperson Sarah Jane Fernandez and Associate Justice Karl Miranda.

Lala, Fernandez, Hermoso, and Surla were sentenced to suffer the indeterminate penalty of six years and one month as minimum to eight years as maximum, with perpetual disqualification from holding public office. Since there was no payment was released by the government to the subject contract, no civil liability was imposed.

Meanwhile, the four of them were acquitted in a separate graft charge involving the reportedly overpriced assembly of 300 sets of decorative lamps along Mandaue Causeway worth a total of P24,975,000 or P83,250 per set on September 12, 2006.

 
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