BAGUIO CITY – The evident harassment, intimidation and trial by publicity employed by the city government against certain officials of the Department of Public works and Highways–Baguio City District Engineering Office (DPWH-BCDEO) virtually failed following the dismissal by the Office of the Ombudsman of the criminal and administrative charges filed by city officials against DPWH-BCDEO engineers for lack of merit.
Some members of the public described this development as a slap on the face of city officials who continue to harp against corruption but fail to substantiate their allegations and often use the avenue to subject certain government officials and employees to trial by publicity.
In a 1-page decision penned by Graft Investigation and Prosecution Officer II Soraya Masukat and approved by Ombudsman Samel Martires, the criminal charges earlier filed against Engr. Rene Zarate, Engr. Glen Reyes, Engr. Cesar Rillera, Engr. Nora delos Santos, Engr. Alfredo Bannagao, Jr., Engr. Teddler Depaynos, Jr., and Engr. Maria Luisa Batac were dismissed for the failure of the evidence on hand to support the finding of probable cause.
“Complainant has no evidence to prove that respondents in evident bad faith or gross inexcusable negligence which cause the delays, defects and deficiencies in the project. As earlier discussed, the defects and deficiencies were noted and raised instantly to respondent Gopeng by issuing the necessary punch lists. There is likewise no evidence to show that respondents gave unwarranted benefits, advantage or preference through manifest partiality to respondent Gopeng. Public respondents took necessary actions to determine if there were grounds to terminate the project and only after they had validated Gopeng’s justifications that he was allowed to continue the same, the decision stressed.
Likewise, the Ombudsman also dismissed the administrative charges against the public respondents as these were based on the complaint where it did not find any factual or legal basis to charge them, thus, there is no substantial evidence to show that respondents had shown negligence in the performance of their duties neither did they tarnish the image or integrity of their office.
Further, the criminal complaint versus Wilfredo Gopeng was also dismissed for lack of probable cause.
The decision lectured on the city government that the proper charge to file in this case was violation of section 3€ of Republic Act (RA) 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act instead of violation of section 3(g) of the said law as based on the complaint. Despite the said suggestion, the Ombudsman still dismissed the said charges for the failure of the elements to be proven by the city to warrant the filing of the case against the public respondents.
More importantly, the city government failed to allege, much more prove with evidence in what way the contract Zarate entered into become grossly or manifestly disadvantageous to the government as a perusal in the allegations of the complaint showed that what complainant is questioning are the acts of the DPWH engineers in the implementation of the said contract and not the terms of the contract which could put the government at a disadvantage, thus, there is no basis to charge the DPWH engineers with violation of the said law.
According to the decision, since the project was still ongoing at the time of the conducted inspection by the personnel of the City Engineering Office, the inspection team findings that the materials used for the project was rather premature. As explained by the respondents, the materials underwent various tests of quality control to comply with Department Order No. 136, series of 2016 to ensure that all the materials pass the agency’s quality control program, thus a mere site inspection of the same is inappropriate to conclude that the used materials are substandard.
The decision added that there is no likewise basis for the complainant’s claims that the DPWH engineers did not personally oversee and supervise the project as the same had not sufficient evidence to prove the same allegations.
It explained that the absence of the concerned DPWH officials at the time of inspection by city officials does not necessarily mean that the said officials were not overseeing the project. Questioning public respondents’ other duties and obligations in the other ongoing projects of the agency, they could not be expected to be at a particular project site all the time.
However, the decision admitted that Gopeng failed to comply with the July 17, 2022 deadline to accomplish the punch lists given to him on May 16, 2022 but appropriate actions were taken by the respondents to compel the contractor to comply with the necessary corrections of the defects which was later actually accomplished.
Concerned DPWH-BCDEO engineers expressed a sigh of relief following the receipt of the Ombudsman decision dismissing the charges filed against them but they are still eagerly awaiting the decision of the same office on the other cases that were filed against them to put an end to the long-standing issue on the alleged corruption involved in the implementation of public works projects.
Observers noted that the half-basked cases being filed by the city government against concerned DPWH officials are the product of alleged harassment, intimidation and trial by publicity to force the agency to succumb to the demands of some city officials to download more funds to the city amidst its failure to satisfactorily implement projects already covered by funds downloaded to the city government. Contributed article