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Talibon Dam Scandal Casts Serious Doubts on Government Integrity
« on: September 08, 2008, 10:41:18 AM »
By Sunday Post

Instead of leveling off the issue, Ombudsman’s recent dismissal of the criminal action in the much publicized allegation of fund anomalies hounding the completion of the Small Reservoir Impounding Project (SRIP) in Talibon sparked graver brawls now anchored on “serious doubt” on the integrity of government service.

 The group of Lawyer Artemio Cabatos, legal counsel of Engr. Nilo Sarigumba, chair of the Boholanos Against Corruption, Oppression and Social Harassment (Bacosh)- -complainant in the issue, refused to welcome the Ombudsman decision penned by Graft Investigation and Prosecution Officer II Sarah Vergara of the Ombudsman.

 Cabatos said his group “cannot stomach the recent Ombudsman resolution dismissing the criminal action” against NIA officials.

  “It has beclouded the people’s faith in the present government, which is seen by its actions to be actually undemocratic and anti-people,” Cabatos stated in a press statement.

 Cabatos, also chair of the National Union of People’s Lawyers-Bohol chapter, contained in a press statement dated August 26, 2008, his disbelief on the argument of “lack of substantial legal basis” used as ground for junking the complaint.

  “What does the Ombudsman mean by ‘lack of substantial legal basis?’ Is not the loss of more than a hundred million pesos enough legal basis? If there was ‘prima facie’ evidence in the case in 2004, why was it lost in 2006? What happened in the interim?” Cabatos pointed out.

 He also said the NUPL laments on the result of their effort which he said only shows “gross violation of fundamental human and constitutional rights, not only of one person-victim, but of the entire citizenry,” since it involves the people’s money collected from them through taxes.

  “The people’s right to information and to protection against grafters clearly appears to have been schemingly violated. Worse, the dismissal of the subject case has put under serious doubt the integrity in government service and the capacity of government itself to govern under the law and the truth and to dispense justice in the real service to the sovereign people,” Cabatos stated.

 The issue stemmed from what the complainants alleged as fund irregularity committed by Provincial Irrigation Officer Calixto Seroje during his stint as project manager of the SRIP and four other officials of the National Irrigation Administration (NIA).

 They questioned that while the project, when conceived in 1998, already had a fund outlay of P165 million for its completion, “the project was less than half accomplished” and the appropriation was already exhausted.

 Cabatos’ group lodged the complaint four years ago and was found to have prima facie case by an graft investigator. Then all the while, they thought it was already elevated to the Sandiganbayan.

 They were frustrated to find that no case was filed. Instead it’s only this year that they learned that it was yet in June 2006 that another graft investigator had already penned a resolution dismissing the case.

  “Upon recommendation by OMB Director Virginia Palanca-Santiago of the Visayas, the national Ombudsman approved the resolution of dismissal, and the only ground for the dismissal is ‘lack of substantial legal basis’,” Cabatos lamented.

 The lawyer call it oppression that breeds injustice which he said further results to dissent that disturbs peace and order.

 With little hope left, Sarigumba filed a motion for reconsideration on August 19, through Cabatos.

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