Contractor, DPWH execs want SC review of graft conviction

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    OFFICIALS of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and a private contractor who were convicted of graft last year in connection with the alleged anomalous procurement of decorative lampposts and street lighting fixtures for the 2007 ASEAN Summit are making a last-ditch effort to contest the ruling.

    Former DPWH Central Visayas regional director Robert Lala, Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) members Pureza Fernandez and Agustinito Hermoso, and businessman Gerardo Surla, chairman of GAMPIK Construction and Development Inc., have filed their respective Notices of Appeal with the anti-graft court to signify that they are elevating the case to the Supreme Court.

    Under the 2018 Revised Rules of the Sandiganbayan, an appeal of the anti-graft court’s ruling shall be done through a Notice of Appeal submitted to the court and copy furnished the adverse party.

    “Considering that accused Robert Lala, Pureza Fernandez, and Agustinito Hermoso have timely filed their Notice of Appeal on January 29, 2021 …and have paid the docket and other legal fees…their Notice of Appeal is hereby approved and given due course,” the anti-graft court said.

    Surla already filed his own Notice of Appeal as early as January 4, 2021.

    The anti-graft court directed the Sixth Division clerk of court to transmit records of the case to the Supreme Court as part of the appeal process.

    The defendants were convicted and sentenced to six years imprisonment on September 29, 2020. Their motions for reconsideration were also denied by the Sandiganbayan on December 23, 2020.

    In its decision, the court said the evidence presented during trial established that the DPWH officials conspired with Surla to skirt the rules on public bidding for government contracts, thereby giving unfair advantage to GAMPIK which was eventually awarded the P35.634 million project.

    What proved to be the key piece of evidence for the prosecution was the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) dated November 22, 2006 which was signed between DPWH-Region 7 and GAMPIK.

    The court noted that the formal bidding for the project took place on November 28, 2006, which meant the MOU predated the bidding by six days.

    This convinced the court that there was already a “predetermined winning bidder” in violation of the provisions of RA 9184 or the Government Procurement Reform Law.