Ombudsman OKs P102-M graft raps vs ex-Ecija mayor, 11 others

  • Written by Steve A. Gosuico
  • Published in Provincial
  • Read: 196

SAN Antonio, Nueva Ecija -- The Office of the Ombudsman has found probable cause to indict former Mayor Antonino R. Lustre and 11 others before the Sandiganbayan for graft over P102-million worth of locally-funded projects whose bidding were found to have been rigged and overpriced.

In a 20-page resolution, the Ombudsman ordered the case elevated to the anti-graft court after finding probable cause in the complaint for violation of Republic Act No. 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act filed by incumbent Mayor Arvin C. Salonga, who, after assuming office on June 30, 2016, uncovered numerous “highly anomalous and unlawful transactions” committed by the previous administration under Lustre.

Salonga cited these alleged anomalies as the construction of a P52.1-million two-story commercial building, a P45-million slaughterhouse and integrated terminal complex and the purchase of an agricultural lot for P5 million in Bgy. Sta. Cruz.

Aside from Lustre, also indicted were municipal engineer Renato Bustamante, municipal treasurer Daisy Pili, OIC-municipal budget officer Mercy Reyes, project engineer Roberto Odulio, ex-town councilor Julito Galang, administrative assistant III Constancia Salonga, spouses Julito and Marietta Morales, all of San Antonio town; Eloy Eclar, general manager of MB Eclar Trading and Corporation, Michael Galang Jr., and PAPISSS Inc., represented by Engineer Pedro Perez.

In his complaint, Salonga accused Lustre of entering into a contract about the two-story commercial building with Papisss, Inc. represented by Perez on Dec. 29, 2015 without any authority from the Sangguniang Bayan.

Salonga said the project was not included in the annual budget and that the invitation to bid was not posted in Philgeps, or the municipal website but the BAC advertised the invitation to bid in CCNE Online News, a local newspaper, contrary to the required publication in a newspaper of national circulation in violation of the law.

On the slaughterhouse and terminal complex project, Salonga said that on June 6, 2014, Lustre entered into a contract with MB Eclar Trading and Construction represented by Michael Galang for its construction without any authority from the SB and likewise rigging the bidding in favor of Eclar.

In the case of the lot, the complaint stated that Lustre signed to purchase a lot in Bgy. Sta. Cruz for the slaughterhouse, terminal and commercial center for P5 million without SB authority, and although the said lot is under litigation, which price is way above its fair market value and without consulting first the provincial appraisal committee (PAC).

The Ombudsman resolution was signed on April 20, 2018 by Deputy Ombudsman for Luzon Gerard A. Mosquera and approved by Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales on July 9, 2018.