Graft, plunder case vs. Munti Mayor San Pedro dismissed

The Office of the Ombudsman has dismissed the graft and plunder case filed against Muntinlupa Mayor Aldrin San Pedro and 30 other current and former officials of the Muntinlupa City government after the complainant failed to prove the charges with evidence in connection with the approval of 11 infrastructure projects in 2007.

In a 61-page decision, the Ombudsman dismissed the case filed by complainant Ariel Dolleton, former city government department head under former Muntinlupa mayor Jaime Fresnedi and a losing candidate for councilor in the May 2010 elections.

“In the light of the foregoing, this Office submits that the complainant [Dolleton] failed to entrench the existence of probable cause against the respondents with the required quantum of evidence,” according to the decision of the Ombudsman signed by Graft Investigation and Prosecution Officer II Lourdes Padre Juan, Acting Assistant Ombudsman Mary Susan Guillermo and Ombudsman Ma. Merceditas Gutierrez.

“We are very happy with the decision of the Ombudsman. Our evidences proved that we followed all the laws in the implementation of the infrastructure projects,” Mayor San Pedro said.

In his complaint, Dolleton alleged that there was irregularity in the approval by the Sangguniang Panlungsod and Mayor San Pedro of supplemental budgets in 2007 for 11 infrastructure projects amounting to P238.07 million.

Dolleton further alleged that the 11 infrastructure projects were approved without sufficient funds available. He also said the respondents conspired to approve the projects by disregarding rules and regulations covering the approval and bidding process.

With these, Dolleton said the respondents violated the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act (RA 3019), Government Procurement Reform Act (RA 9184), Local Government Code (RA 7160), and the Act Defining and Penalizing Plunder (RA 7080).

Mayor San Pedro and other respondents submitted all documents including receipts, minutes of pre-bidding conference, abstract of bids, contracts and performance bonds to prove that there was no anomaly in the approval of the projects.

The projects approved included sidewalk improvement, streetlights, road repairs, bus landing terminal, water tank and asphalt overlay and concrete blocking implemented all over Muntinlupa.

In its decision, the Ombudsman said Dolleton “failed to tender proofs to controvert the contents and authenticity” of the documents submitted by the mayor and other respondents.

It upheld that, “Even the bidding process relative thereto appeared to be regular as evidenced by the orders of payment and official receipts.”

The Ombudsman pointed out that Dolleton “failed to sufficiently substantiate” that the projects were overpriced and that San Pedro and other respondents accumulated unlawful wealth.

“The undisputed completion of the contested projects showed that the government did not sustain undue injury I the furtherance thereof. Neither was there proof to establish the claim (by Dolleton) that the contracts covering the transactions in issue were disadvantageous to the government,” the Ombudsman’s decision read.

“Wherefore, premises considered, let the instant complaint against all the respondents be, as it is hereby, dismissed,” the Ombudsman ruled.

Besides Mayor San Pedro, other officials who were acquitted in the case were former councilors Icasiano Dela Rea, Melchor Teves, Allan Rey Camilon, Marita Calalang, Ma. Luisa Babaran-Echavez, Francis Ian Bagatsing, Marissa Cole-Rongavilla, Mamerto Sevilla Jr. and Rey Bulay.

Also cleared were incumbent Councilors Amy Patdu-Labios, Luvi Constantino, Vergel Ulanday, Robert Abas, and Joselito Arevalo.

The Ombudsman also acquitted City Administrator Roberto Bunyi, chairman of the Bids and Awards Committee (BAC); BAC members Vicente Navarro, Michael Racelis, Peter Salonga and Sonia Laureta; Budget Officer Avelino Orellana, former Muntinlupa City Treasurer Nelia Barlis, City Accountant Edwin Suitado and members of the BAC Technical Working Group and BAC Secretariat.

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