THE 5.1-kilometer President Diosdado Macapagal Boulevard (PDMB) that is now the gateway to the multi billion- peso Pagcor Entertainment City was not “overpriced.”
Thus said an executive of the J.D. Legaspi Construction (JDLC) who claimed that the controversial highway is “not a `road to perdition” but a pathway to redemption from traffic gridlock.
“Stories emanating from the Office of the Ombudsman of a supposed P837-million windfall are not true,” said Enrico Garcia, JDLC chief operating officer, in reaction to news reports quoting Assistant Ombudsman Asyrman Rafanan who called a press conference on the case last week.
Rafanan on Thursday announced that the Sandiganbayan had released a decision finding 12 former executives of the Public Estates Authority (PEA) and Jesusito Legaspi, JDLC owner and general manager, guilty of “padding” the cost of a 2.3-kilometer section of the 5.1-km PDMB.
Garcia said the anti-graft court upheld the finding by the Commission on Audit (COA) that “the total project cost, including price adjustments, is reasonable, and, therefore, not overpriced.”
“The project was constructed in accordance with approved design, scope of work and as-built plans and specifications. The audit team, therefore, finds no sufficient basis to support the allegation of overpricing,” Garcia said, quoting the February 5 decision of the Sandiganbayan
Garcia said the decision was based on an April 21, 2003 “special audit” report on the matter done by a COA team led by State Auditor IV Elizabeth Savella.
The court said: “By sheer number of evidenciary exhibits, documentary and object evidence, presented by the defense, it would appear that there is substantial basis to arrive at a conclusion that the Legaspi segment of the PDMB project was differently situated and was constructed using materials markedly different than that of SM and R-l consortium segments.”
Three contractors worked on the project, including SM AND R-1 and Legaspi’s firm.
“JDLC implemented the project according to the requirements for the reclaimed area. Stories of the supposed P837-million windfall are not true because the COA found that contractor gained only reasonable profit that had been well within the limits allowable under COA Rules. Thus, as per COA Special Audit, the comparison with SM and R-1 Consortium was not on an apples-to-apples basis,” Garcia said.
“True perhaps that the project was expensive, the Sandiganbayan upheld, however, that it had not been overpriced as to that respect,” Garcia added.
All those recently acquitted were members of the new board who were all Arroyo appointees. Those found guilty due to procedural lapses were PEA Management and members of the old Board: Manuel Beriña Jr., Jaime Millan, Bernardo Viray, Theron Victor Lacson, Raphael Pocholo Zorilla, Cristina Amposta-Mortel, Frisco Francisco San Juan, Carmelita De Leon-Chan, Daniel Dayan, Salvador Malbarosa, Leo Padilla and Elpidio Damaso.
Although the court upheld that there was no conspiracy between Legaspi’s firm and the PEA in the bidding, award or the execution of the contract, Engineer Legaspi was nevertheless included because according to the Sandiganbayan, “The bottom line is that accused Legaspi continued working on the project even without the assurance that he will be paid.”
“Contractor [Legaspi’s firm] was held liable for constructing the Seaside Drive Way connecting the PDMB Boulevard to Roxas without the assurance that he would be paid. The necessary approval from the Office of the President had supposedly not yet been issued when the contractor began works,” Garcia explained. “The Seaside Drive Way was not included in the original contract but was later on awarded to the private contractor for immediate implementation to provide access to the Highway as an alternate route to decongest the horrendous traffic along Roxas Boulevard.”
“The costs of these new and additional works increased the original contract price. According to the Sandiganbayan, the driveway was an unnecessary and unauthorized expense which increased the total contract cost. Such increase had supposedly been tantamount to an overpricing, which the Sandiganbayan says could have been avoided,” he added.
“This road network is of world class quality. At the very least, it is unlike any of its neighboring roads. Despite its expanse and the understandably soft character of its reclaimed soil, this boulevard has maintained its strength and durability without repair in the last 13 years. The immediate and efficient completion of this roadway inarguably sparked a boost in the economy,” Garcia said.
He said all the accused will filed a petition to seek for the reversal of the decision. In the meantime, until finally resolved by the Supreme Court, the decision is still not final or executory.