LEGAZPI CITY: Charges of plunder have been filed with the Office of the Ombudsman recently against the top executives of the Department of Public Works and Highways in Bicol led by its regional director.
Filed by whistle-blower Roberto Cañezal, the seven-page plunder complaint against 43 DPWH personnel stemmed from the disposal of allegedly chopped serviceable and unserviceable equipment and machineries that were made to appear as junks and scraps.
The complainant estimated the cost of the disposed equipment and machineries at P150M. Cañezal is the heavy equipment operator who confessed his involvement in allegedly anomalous transactions that took place inside the Area Equipment Service (AES) of the DPWH in Masbate province.
The alleged chopped equipment and machineries detailed at the Masbate AES were subject of an investigation report. Canezal said reducing the assailed equipment and machineries into junk and scraps was a shrewd way of hiding evidences of anomalous transactions that he was trying to expose.
In the investigation conducted by DPWH investigator Romeo Esplana (MNSA) whose final report was received by the regional office on March 17, 2011,
it was recommended that fact-finding team composed of NBI, COA, DPWH, and witnesses should be created to look further into findings of anomalous deals inside Bicol’s six other AES offices, including the Regional Equipment Service (RES) based in this city.
The Esplana report revealed non-remittance of equipment rentals during the past 10 years, from 2000 to 2010, including alleged massive pilferages of serviceable equipment and machineries, double procurement, and ghost rehabilitation and repairs of equipment.
In an exclusive interview, Esplana confirmed he had conducted the investigation in early 2011 where the unremitted equipment rentals, pilferages, double procurement of equipment parts and supplies, and ghost repairs could have reached P100M of taxpayers’ money.
Esplana’s 10-page report was backed by 86 pages of photos, videos, documents, and testimonies from witnesses.
In addition to the plunder complaint, Cañezal also wrote President Aquino and COA Commissioner Heidi Mendoza to inform them that the Esplana report was never acted upon by the concerned DPWH regional office.
COA Regional Director Nilda Plaras, however, said her office has been conducting a separate probe as initial steps preparatory to fraud audit to be conducted by the COA central office. She confirmed receiving the Esplana report as early as March last year.
Cañezal revealed that DPWH Regional Director Danilo Dequito summoned him at the latter’s office last May 11, this year, where administrative officer Flocerpida Azotea, RES engineer Casimiro Castañeda and legal officer Oliver Rodulfo were also present.
He said Dequito asked to withdraw his complaint reminding him that he [Cañezal] was involved in the alleged scam and that after all, the disposal of the alleged waste materials had the stamp of approval by all division chiefs concerned.
Cañezal said he declined to withdraw which allegedly drew the ire of Rodulfo who threatened him with dismissal from the service.
Dequito was named Bicol regional director only in October 2010. He replaced then-OIC regional director Danilo Manalang who succeeded Engr. Orlando Roces who was regional director from 2001 to December 2009.
In his complaint, Canezal said the actually witnessed the ‘chop-chop’ operation at the Masbate AES on April 29 (Sunday), 2012 under the supervision of the AES engineer and security personnel. He said he reported the matter to Castañeda but was ignored.
The ‘chop-chop’ operation was a result of the notice of award signed by Dequito on March 30, 2012 for 47.5 tons of materials and junk at the Masbate AES at the measly amount of P191,200.00.
He said the chopped or cannibalized parts and equipment could have weighed a combined total of 130 tons.
Aside from Dequito, among the other top DPWH executives charged were Asst. Regional Director Jesus Salmo, Castañeda, former RES Engineer now retired RES Engineer Antonio Ruivivar, Rodulfo, Maintenance Division Chief Antonio Saguinsin, Construction Division Chief Godofredo Beltran, Quality Control Division Chief Fermin Peteza, Azotea, personnel officer Maria Theodora Losantas, RES Administrative Officer Rose Romero, Masbate AES Engineer Eddie Potestad, former Masbate now Albay AES Engineer Avelino Realingo, Masbate 3rd District Engineer Elmer Redrico, Asst. and RES engineer Nelson Sereno, among others.
Joint efforts by this writer and former Inquirer Bicol Bureau Chief Floreño Solmirano to get Dequito’s side of the issue, through a letter dated June 1, 2012 proved unsuccessful as the regional director reportedly referred the letter to the legal office for comment which until now has not responded.
Saguinsin said he was never a party to the Masbate scam or a member of the Pre-Bids and Awards Committee. Rodulfo, on the other hand, said he would give his answer once he received copy of information from the Ombudsman.
According to Cañezal, upon filing of his complaint, he was made to sign a form at the Office of the Ombudsman as an application for admission with the Witness Protection Program of the Department Of Justice, due to the gravity of his complaint. - Bicol Mail