THE Office of the Ombudsman has been asked to charge Pangasinan Gov. Amado Espino III with graft and corruption over alleged irregularities involving the construction last year of a sports oval track and an event staging area inside Alaminos City National High School in Barangay Magsaysay, Pangasinan.
In a three-page complaint filed before the Ombudsman for Luzon last April 16, 2019, Michelle Anne B. Celino accused Espino of graft and corruption, particularly for violating Section 3(e) of Republic Act No. 3019, otherwise known as the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, when the respondent public official implemented the P13 million sports oval track and event stage projects in 2018, which the complainant claimed were “grossly overpriced.”
The complainant was referring to the construction of sports oval track and event staging area in Alaminos City National High School, which was used during the 2018 Region 1 Athletic Association (R1AA) Meet, where the provincial government spent P13 million of its public funds for the construction of the sports projects. The amount was used supposedly for the backfilling of soil, asphalting of the oval, and the construction of two bleachers and a stage.
“The amount claimed by the respondent for the project is very clear not commensurate to the work that was undertaken, or simply put, it is grossly overpriced,” Celino’s complaint stated.
“It is respectfully prayed . . . that the instant criminal case for violation of Section 3 (e) of RA 3019 against respondent Governor Amado Espino, III be filed, as well as the corresponding civil and administrative cases . . .” the complainant said.
Section 3(e) states “Causing any injury to any party, including the Government, or giving any private party unwarranted benefits, advantage or preference in the discharge of his official administrative or judicial functions through manifest partiality, evident bad faith or gross inexcusable negligence. This provision shall apply to officers and employees of offices or government corporations charged with the grant of licenses or permits or other concessions.”
The complainant said that of the total amount of the project, P5 million was allegedly used for the construction of the two bleachers and a stage and P8 million allegedly used for backfilling of soil and asphalting of the oval track
“A careful observation of the pictures would show that the bleachers would not cost that much. The material and cost estimates . . . were done by the City Engineer of the Province of Pangasinan for the construction of the said bleachers, only amounted to P1,241,006.81,” the complainant said.
While the two bleachers are still there, the stage was no longer there because it was pulled out right after the R1AA event, she lamented.
“That the amount of P8 million spent on the construction of the oval track and P5 million for the bleachers and stage are too excessive, and surely cause undue injury and great prejudice to the government,” the complainant stressed.
To substantiate her allegations against the Pangasinan governor, the complainant provided pieces of evidence such as a compact disc containing a video recording of the respondent public official’s speech before a gathering in Laoac, Pangasinan wherein the respondent mentioned this alleged anomalous project as one of his accomplishments during his tenure in office, photos of the bleachers, backfilling of soil and asphalting of the oval track, as well as the cost estimates of the two bleachers done by the City Engineer of the Province of Pangasinan.
If the Ombudsman finds probable cause to indict him for graft and corruption, he would end up similarly situated as his father – Pangasinan Rep. Amado Espino Jr. – who is currently facing trial before the Sandiganbayan for his alleged involvement in illegal mining of black sand along Lingayen Gulf.
The anti-graft court’s Sixth Division earlier decided to proceed with the trial of the graft cases against Cong. Espino and others after it found the prosecution to have satisfactorily established sufficient basis to prove the conspiracy between him and public officials Rafael Baraan and Alvin Bigay and accused private individuals Cesar Detera, Lolita Bolayog and Edwin Alcazar for alleged illegal mining of magnetite and mineral extraction in Barangay Sabangan, Pangasinan.
This came after the anti-graft court denied the joint demurrer to evidence filed by accused Detera, Bolayog and Alcazar for lack of merit. A petition for demurer to evidence means a plea to the court to declare as insufficient the evidence submitted by the prosecution.