Widow files graft charges vs 4 DPWH Bicol officials, 3 others

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By Manilyn Ugalde

LEGAZPI CITY, 02Oct2013 (PNA) – A widow has filed graft charges before the Office of the Ombudsman against four top officials of the Department of Public Works and Highways regional office here and three officers of a construction company for putting up a public road inside her titled private property.

Complainant Evelyn Cordial Alim also claimed that the respondents caused the bulldozing of dozens of trees, which legal minds branded as plain trespassing and robbery.

Charged before the Ombudsman in a three-page complaint dated September 30 are Regional Director Danilo E. Dequito, construction division chief Godofredo Beltran, planning and design division chief Rosy B. Azupardo-Cantara and Evangeline Padilla-Gomez of the DPWH.

Also charged were the contractor-owners of CTC Builders and Supply, brothers John Lao and Mark Clemente, and one Cris Quiam, the alleged foreman.

Dequito, Beltran, Cantara and Gomez were signatories in the documents showing the plans for the widening of the Banuang Gurang road in Donsol, Sorsogon.

The complaint said the plans were prepared for CTC Builders and Supply by Gomez who was with the planning division and the assigned project engineer.

The project is under implementation by the Construction Division under Beltran.

The graft complaint came after Alim wrote President Benigno Aquino III on Aug. 8 detailing how the respondents mindlessly transgressed her small farm at Barangay Tupas in Donsol, Sorsogon, by constructing the shortcut route using heavy equipment and cutting down fruit-bearing trees without her knowledge and consent.

Adding insult to injury, Alim said, the contractor, in an effort to appease her, offered her P100,000 as alleged payment for her silence and the right of way.

The contractor, she added, was accompanied by the DPWH project engineer.

Alim said the offer was made following her complaint before the barangay on June 27, which caused the suspension of the P46-million project.

DPWH insiders said Secretary Rogelio Singson gave a directive in early 2011 that engineers from the planning division shall have their duties exclusive for the planning and design and shall not in any way handle construction projects, a job solely assigned for Construction Division staff.

A former employee wondered why no effort from the DPWH was ever exhausted to inform and secure permission first from the affected landowner before the intrusion into her private property as the law and rules dictate.

Romeo Esplana, recently retired DPWH Bicol public affairs chief, said he could not fathom what happened, saying that during the conduct of the survey, the DPWH had to negotiate already with the landowner for her consent.

He said Singson even made it clear that no bidding shall be held without fist clearing the roadway issue.

A U-shaped road borders the 5,256-square-meter land of Alim and covers almost three sides of the property.

The DPWH decided to construct a straight road passing through the private land of the complainant on allegations it was more convenient and comfortable to riding public, according to Dequito’s later explanation to Donsol town authorities.

According to documents obtained, Dequito has already written the mayor of Donsol for the expropriation of the complainant’s property following the resistance she put up. (PNA)

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