THE Sandiganbayan Sixth Division has affirmed its July 31, 2019 decision convicting five officials of the Department of Public Works and Highways- Regional Office VI in Iloilo City of graft over an anomalous P54.31 million road project in 2008.
Associate Justices Kevin Narce B. Vivero, Sarah Jane T. Fernandez, and Karl B. Miranda ruled unanimously to deny separate motions for reconsideration filed by Project Manager Berna Coca, Quality Assurance and Hydrology Division chief Luvisminda Narciso, Maintenance Division chief Danilo Peroy, Construction Division chief Marilyn Celiz, and Engineer III Fernando Tuares, members of the DPWH-Region 6 Bids and Awards Committee (BAC).
In his 17-page ponencia, Vivero rejected the defendants’ claim of good faith and lack of evidence of conspiracy among them, noting the prosecution has sufficiently proven that the road project was awarded to private contractor IBC International Builders Corp. without the required public bidding and despite the absence of an appropriation.
“The BAC, as a collective unit, served as the enabler and the abettor of an illegality.
Thence, implied conspiracy was proven beyond reasonable doubt upon a clear showing of the active participation and indispensable cooperation among the members of the BAC,” the Sandiganbayan said.
Trial records showed the contract for the asphalt overlay of the Iloilo-Jaro Diversion Road was awarded to IBC Builders on January 10, 2008 even without the conduct of a public bidding required under RA 9184 or the Government Procurement Reform Law.
Government auditors and graft investigators also noted the project had no appropriation to cover the expenditures in violation of Presidential Decree No. 1445 or the State Audit Code of the Philippines.
The most senior accused, former DPWH-RO 6 regional director Rolando Asis, died on July 6, 2017, two years after the case was filed, resulting in the dismissal of the case against him.
Defendants claimed the project was urgent in nature since it had to be completed in time for the yearly Dinagyang Festival.
But then Iloilo City mayor Jerry Treñas said the road was passable and, while there are spots that required repair, these did not present danger to the general public thereby negating any basis for the supposed emergency.
In affirming the guilty verdict together with the sentence of six to eight years imprisonment, perpetual disqualification from holding public office, and forfeiture of all retirement benefits, the court said the accused failed to raise any novel issues of law to warrant a reversal.
“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,” the Sandiganbayan declared.