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Ombudsman probes DPWH officials who are remiss in implementing its orders

By Czarina Nicole Ong Ki

The Office of the Ombudsman has ordered a panel of investigators to conduct a fact finding investigation on the failure of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) to implement three of its preventive suspension and dismissal orders issued last year against several of its officials.

Office of the Ombudsman (MANILA BULLETIN)

Office of the Ombudsman (MANILA BULLETIN)

Ombudsman Samuel Martires tasked Assistant Ombudsman Caesar D. Asuncion to lead the probe in an order dated January 27.

The first order, dated July 30, 2019, involved the six-month preventive suspension of Assistant Director Virgilio Eduarte, Attorney IV Eulogio Laboga, Quality Assistance and Hydrology Division Chief Brenilda Mendoza, Equipment Management Chief Romy Gumban, and Road Heightening and Tide Embarkment Chief Serafin Lago, all from the Regional Office VIII.

The suspension stemmed from the complaint filed by B.M. Marketing proprietor Edgar Tiu, who said that the respondents unlawfully disqualified his company in the public bidding conducted on December 21, 2016 for the construction of the Storm Surge Protection: Road Heightening and Tide Embankment worth P264,218,720.97.

Tiu’s firm submitted and offered a bid of P216,269,130.57, and the DPWH bids and awards committee (BAC) declared that B.M. Marketing has submitted complete documents and passed all the requirements. The BAC likewise declared that the construction firm is the lowest complying bidder.

But during the post-qualification evaluation, Tiu was required to submit certificates of registration (CRs) and official receipts (ORs) from the Land Transportation Office (LTO) for the brand new vehicles owned by his firm within three working days. Failure to do so will be construed as post disqualification of Tiu’s Technical Proposal. On January 9, 2017, Eduarte issued a Notice of Post-Disqualification.

The vehicles were indeed newly procured, but the Ombudsman order stated that these were purchased from foreign suppliers. Still, the commercial invoices were submitted in the bidding.

“Actual possession of construction vehicles/equipment, coupled with commercial receipts, should persuade any reasonable mind that the possessor thereof is the owner of the same,” the order stated.

“It befuddles reason why respondents unilaterally amended the checklist in the post-qualification process by making it mandatory for B.M. Marketing to submit the LTO CRs and ORs,” it added.

The Ombudsman said their actions are constitutive of Grave Misconduct. Since the evidence of guilt against them is strong, they have to be placed under preventive suspension for six months.

Meanwhile, the second case involved the emergency repairs made on a Mazda pick-up with license plates PUZ-366 in 2001 by Engineer V Oscar Isidro. The complainant alleged that the DPWH paid a total amount of P371,696 for 18 emergency repairs made on the vehicle.

The Ombudsman order said that these transactions were proven to be “fictitious and anomalous.” The vehicle has an estimated value of P255,000, but the total cost of repairs amounted more than the vehicle itself with P371,696. If the respondent had considered this, the Ombudsman said he should have submitted the vehicle for proper disposal.

To make the repairs appear regular, “splitting” was widely resorted to by the respondent. All the transaction amounts fell below P25,000 in the disbursement vouchers and other supporting documents. However, the repairs were made within a short interval of time.

In addition, the documents supporting the repairs were falsified. “Through these documents, it was made to appear that the subject vehicle underwent emergency repairs that required purchases of spare parts, when in truth and in fact, it did not,” the order read.

Isidro was found guilty of Grave Misconduct and Serious Dishonesty, and was meted a penalty of dismissal from public services together with its accessory penalties.

Lastly, the third case dealt with the motion for reconsideration filed by District Engineer Orlando Hernani Jr., Joselito Caballero, Alberto Cainghog, Noel Pineda, and Edward del Rosario Sevilla. The respondents sought to reverse the decision issued by the Ombudsman on July 17, 2017, which found them guilty of Grave Misconduct and Conduct Prejudicial to the Best Interest of the Service.

The respondents contended that the penalty imposed by the Ombudsman was too harsh, considering that there was no showing of serious misconduct. They stressed that they simply followed what was stated in the circular and department orders of their office with regards to the improvement and construction of the farm-to-market road in Banganga, Davao Oriental.

However, their motion was denied because the respondents failed to present new evidence to bolster their defense, and their arguments merely contain repetitions of their earlier defense.

Martires has given his panel a period of 30 days within which to submit their report on the DPWH as well as their recommendations.

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