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Ex-Central Visayas DPWH execs convicted in overpriced ASEAN 2007 lampposts case

The anti-graft court Sandiganbayan convicted Tuesday, September 29, 3 former officials of the Department of Public Works and Highways-Central Visayas and a private individual of graft and corruption for the "irregular and anomalous procurement of decorative lampposts and other street lighting facilities" for the 2007 ASEAN Summit hosted by Cebu.

Convicted by the Sandiganbayan Sixth Division for violating Section 3(e) of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act were former DPWH-7 regional director Robert Gingging Lala, former Maintenance Division OIC-chief Pureza Fernandez, Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) member Agustinito Hermoso, and GAMPIK Chairman Gerardo Surla.

All 4 were sentenced 6 to 8 years of imprisonment for conspiring in the rigged multi-million peso transaction.

Associate Justice Kevin Narce Vivero penned the 80-page decision, concurred by Associate Justice Karl Miranda and Associate Justice Sarah Jane Fernandez, chairperson of the Sixth Division.

The contracts of the lampposts showed these were purchased for a P54.94 Million and placed on the streets of Mandaue City and Lap-Lapu City in Cebu.

According to the anti-graft court, all 4 accused conspired to corner a contract without competitive bidding 120 sets of decorative park lamp assembly in Lapu-Lapu City worth P35.63M to GAMPIK Construction and Development.

The Office of the Ombudsman, together with the Commission on Audit even computed the figures and found these bloated to an excess of about P12.6 million.

In the contract for 300 sets in Mandaue City, each were priced P83,250, for a total of P24.98 million. But citing Ombudsman and COA, the court said it was P17M in excess.

COA noted the suspicious costs of the combined contracts. It was in comparisons found in documents prepared by the Mandaue City government that showed the equipment being overpriced to almost 10 times the original cost.

In 2017, the COA found that there was a clear violation of RA No. 9184 or the Government Procurement Reform Act as the project didn’t undergo the required public bidding.

The Sandiganbayan decision came more than a decade after the criminal charges were originally filed 2007.

The court said all 4 conspired in overpricing and leaving out public bidding for the purchase of the ASEAN lampposts which were provided by GAMPIK Construction and Development Incorporated.

The court noted that the 3 officials had already "worked together" to conspire to have GAMPIK as their preferred bidder. It was Surla who provided the equipment and signed the Memorandum of Understanding as he was the chairman of the board of GAMPIK at the time.

"All these acts contributed in the end result of giving unwarranted advantage or preference to Gampik," the court said.

Seven other individuals were also named in the document. This included DPWH-7 assistant regional director Gloria Ruiz Dindin; BAC chairperson Marlina Sanchez Alvizo; maintenance division OIC assistant chief Cresencio Tocmo Bagolor; planning and design division chief Luis Abregana Galang; and BAC technical working group members: Buenaventurada Conol Pajo, Ayaon Sogador Manggis, and Marilyn Abrio Ojeda.

However, all of the respondents to the complaint were acquitted from charges relating to the lampposts. This was because the prosecution failed to prove they ‘guilty beyond reasonable doubt’. – Rappler.com/with reports from Ryan Macasero