• Ex-LRTA chief pleads not guilty to graft charge

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    Former Light Rail Transit Authority (LRTA) Administrator Melquiades Robles and several other respondents pleaded not guilty to the graft complaint filed against them for allegedly paying a joint venture P3.37 million per month for the deployment of janitors while allowing the reduction of the required number to be deployed from a minimum of 321 to 219 in 2009.

    Arraigned on Tuesday at the Sandiganbayan’s Fifth Division were Robles, Federico Canar Jr., former department manager of LRTA Line 1, former Special Bids and Awards Committee (SBAC) members Marilou Liscano and Eduardo Abiva, and former LRTA SBAC Technical Working Group members Nicholas Ombao, Roger Vaño, Maynard Tolosa, Juliet Labisto, Evelyn Macalino, and Dennis Francisco.

    Elmo Stephen Triste, former SBAC member, refused to enter any plea so the court entered a not guilty plea on his behalf.

    Lilia Diaz and Dennis BN Acorda, who were from the Joint Venture of COMM Builders and Technology Philippines Corp., PMP Inc., and Gradski Saobracaj were also among the respondents.

    The court deferred the arraignment of Diaz, whose plea for case dismissal was earlier denied, pending resolution of a motion for reconsideration she filed.

    Acorda was arraigned in April.

    The Office of the Ombudsman accused the respondents of giving unwarranted benefits to the joint venture by paying P3.37 million per month for the deployment of 321 janitors.

    The respondents allegedly caused the LRTA undue injury in the amount of P1.07 million per month or P12.86 million in 2009, according to the charge sheet.

    Robles’ camp has said that “there was no evidence that the Joint Venture collected the same amount allotted for the 321 janitors when the number of janitors deployed was reduced to 219. Neither was there any proof that the LRTA Line 1 was damaged and prejudiced in the amount of P1,072,051.30 per month , they added.

    The defense added that Macalino, then the manager of LRTA’s Accounting Division, said that only P9,950,903 was deducted, as reflected in disbursement vouchers, considering the reduced number of janitors deployed.

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