Ex-NIA chief’s sentence over dam project affirmed

Elizabeth Marcelo - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — The Sandiganbayan has affirmed its earlier ruling convicting former National Irrigation Administration (NIA) chief Carlos Salazar in connection with a dam project initiated in 2009 without approval from the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA).

In a resolution promulgated on Aug. 3, the anti-graft court said Salazar failed to raise in his appeal substantial or compelling matters that would warrant the reversal of the decision finding him guilty of violating Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

The anti-graft court earlier sentenced Salazar to six to eight years in prison and perpetually disqualified him from holding public office.

The court ordered Salazar, who was NIA administrator during the presidency of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, to indemnify the agency P98.55 million or equivalent to the amount of NIA funds found to have been illegally disbursed.

The Sandiganbayan acquitted private respondent Ricardo Khan Jr. of the A.M. Oreta and Co. Inc. due to the prosecution’s failure to prove that he conspired with Salazar.

Filed by the Office of the Ombudsman in 2018, the case stemmed from a P712.37-million contract that Salazar entered into with A.M. Oreta on May 8, 2009 for the construction of the Libmanan-Cabusao Diversion Dam in Camarines Sur.

The ombudsman said the contract was awarded to A.M. Oreta without prior approval from the NEDA-Investment Coordination Committee, which was required under Executive Order 230 or the reorganized NEDA charter.

The ombudsman said that two days after the signing of the contract, Salazar issued a notice to proceed with the project, allowing the firm to collect an advance payment of P98.5 million.

The project, which was supposed to be constructed in Sipocot River, was called off due to opposition from local communities and environmental groups.



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