Ex-Cagayan governor cleared of graft
MANILA, Philippines — A former governor of Cagayan has been acquitted of graft charges in connection with the allegedly anomalous construction of the P213-million Cagayan Town Center (CTC), which was funded through the province’s bond sales.
In a 67-page decision promulgated on Feb. 19, the Sandiganbayan said the Office of the Ombudsman failed to prove that former Cagayan governor Edgar Lara acted with malice, in bad faith and partiality when he awarded the contracts for the construction of the CTC or the Paseo Reale Mall.
Lara was acquitted of two counts of violation of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
The anti-graft court said local government units have the power to issue bonds to finance their development projects in accordance with law.
The Sandiganbayan ordered the release of the P60,000 bail that Lara earlier posted for his provisional liberty. It also withdrew the hold order it issued against him.
Filed by the ombudsman in 2011, one of the cases stemmed from the provincial goverment’s award of a financial consultancy service contract to Preferred Ventures Inc. (PVI) in November 2001.
The PVI helped the provincial government source funds for the construction through bond flotation.
The company was paid three percent of the total amount of the bonds issued and floated.
Records showed that of the P205-million bonds floated, P6.15 million was paid to the PVI for the services it rendered to the provincial government.
The other case stemmed from the award of a design and construction contract amounting to P213.795 million to the Asset Builders Corp. (ABC) in September 2003.
The ombudsman said both contracts were awarded without public bidding and prior authorization from the provincial board.
It said the ABC was overpaid by P8.33 million as the contract price for the project was only P213.732 million.
The Sandiganbayan said the existing procurement rules in 2001, when the contract with PVI was entered into, did not yet require public bidding.
As to the contract with ABC, the anti-graft court said a public bidding was conducted as shown in the Resolution of Award.