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Ombudsman's Decision Over Talibon Dam Scandal Saddens Public
« on: August 28, 2008, 10:26:29 AM »
By Kit Bagaipo
Bohol Chronicle

The loss of more than a hundred million pesos in government funds is already substantial legal basis in order to prosecute five National Irrigation Administration (NIA) officials who were cleared of graft charges by the Ombudsman.

This was the statement made by lawyer Artemio Cabatos, one of the complainants in the much publicized alleged anomalies attending the Talibon Small Reservoir Impounding Project (TSRIP).

The complaint was dropped by the Ombudsman due to "lack of substantial legal basis".
Cabatos said that since the Talibon irrigation project was conceived in 1998, it already had a fund outlay for its completion in the sum of P165 million.

"The said appropriation was exhausted, but the project was less than half accomplished. What does the Ombudsman mean by 'lack of substantial basis?'" Cabatos questioned.
         

In 2004, the project's manager and now provincial irrigation officer, Engr. Calixto Seroje together with 4 other NIA officials, were investigated by the Ombudsman Graft Investigator which found prima facie case against them.

"We expected the case to be elevated to the Sandiganbayan, which has jurisdiction over the case," Cabatos stressed.

The Ombudsman's dismissal of the criminal action, according to Cabatos, was not only improper but has also "put under serious doubt the integrity in government service and the capacity of government to dispense justice…"

"The only ground for the dismissal was lack of substantial legal basis, a ruling that was penned by an Ombudsman graft investigator that contradicted that of another graft investigator's finding of prima facie case," he pointed out.

"If there was prima facie evidence in 2004, why was it lost in 2006?" Cabatos asked.

According to Cabatos, "the people's right to information and to protection against grafters clearly appears to have been schemingly violated."

The Boholanos Against Corruption, Oppression and Social Harassment (Bacosh), the main complainant of the case, represented by Cabatos, has filed a motion for reconsideration at the Ombudsman last Friday.

Meanwhile, a radio survey conducted over dyRD's Inyong Alagad aired the public's condemnation of the Ombudsman ruling.

Some 17 listeners of the top-rated radio program said they did not agree with the decision while saying that they believe there were anomalies in the irrigation project.

Nobody among radio listeners said they agree with the Ombudsman's ruling.

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