By: Gerome Dalipe
FIVE former officials of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) in Western Visayas will spend up to eight years in jail for their involvement in the anomalous P54.37 million asphalt overlay of the Iloilo-Jaro Diversion road in 2008.
This after the Sandiganbayan’s 6th Division found the five public works officials guilty of violating Sec. 3(e) of Republic Act 3019, or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
“The accused, while engaged in the discharge of their official functions, gave unwarranted benefits, advantage, and preference to the contractor,” read the anti-graft court’s ruling.
The case stemmed from the complaint filed by the Office of the Ombudsman-Visayas against the late Rolando Martin Asis, then DPWH-6 director, and his five subordinates.
The other five respondents are Berna Coca, who served as the project manager and chair of the bids and awards committee (BAC).
The four other accused are Engrs. Luvisminda Narciso, Danilo Peroy, Marilyn Celiz, and Fernando Tuares, who all acted as BAC members.
The accused initiated the project following the request of Mayor Jerry Treñas to repair the Iloilo-Jaro Diversion Road up to Dungon Bridge in time for the Dinagyang Festival in January 2008.
The BAC later awarded the contract to International Builders Corporation to repair the two-kilometer road.
The BAC resorted to negotiated procurement reportedly to finish works on the two-kilometer road in time for the annual Dinagyang Festival.
IBC, the contractor with asphalt batching plant in Iloilo, completed the asphalt overlay project on Feb. 9, 2018.
The anti-graft office later investigated the project after state auditors confirmed that the project did not undergo the public bidding.
The Ombudsman then filed the graft case against the respondents before the Sandigabayan for alleged violation of the anti-graft law.
But before the trial ended, Asis died of hepatic cancer last July 6, 2017.
The other respondents, in their counter-affidavits, denied any irregularity in the implementation of the road project.
They argued that the project is necessary for the celebration of Dinagyang Festival in 2008.
The asphalt overlay was necessary considering that the road is a major access from Iloilo City to the New Iloilo Airport and the central part of Iloilo, the respondents insisted.
But the anti-graft court downplayed the supposed “actual emergency” for the project implementation.
“Ubiquitous potholes cannot, by any stretch of the imagination, cause traffic snarls along the Iloilo-Jaro Diversion Road and dissuade tourists trekking to the central business district for the Dinagyang Festival,” the decision read.
Apart from the jail term between six to eight years, the Sandiganbayan also barred the respondents from working again in government and forfeited all their retirement benefits.