EXPLAINER: 15 years after lamps were bought for Asean summit in Cebu, Arturo Radaza still had to be arraigned. SC rejects ex-mayor's petition, orders end to 'needless delays.'

·4 min read

WHAT PEOPLE THOUGHT. If you think, as many of us did, that the Sandiganbayan already decided the criminal complaint against former Lapu-Lapu City mayor Arturo Radaza in connection with the 2006 purchase of street lamps but the appeal was still stuck in the Supreme Court, you're wrong.

It's been a decade and a half since the decorative lamps were bought and installed, just a year before the Asean Summit that Cebu hosted from January 9 to 15, 2007.

In a decision promulgated August 4 but publicized October 27, the high court threw out Radaza's petition for certiorari, which assailed Sandiganbayan's November 2, 2011 and February 21, 2021 rulings that denied his opposition to an amended information and his motion to quash it.

Instead, the SC ordered the Sandiganbayan to proceed with Radaza's arraignment and "fully dispose" of the information speedily.

NEWS BLACKOUT IN CEBU? There was some kind of news blackout in Cebu on the most recent development in Radaza's case, if initial research is correct.

At least three sources of information were available: the Supreme Court website on its decisions, which published the text of the ruling last October 27; the judiciary.gov.ph website, which ran a story last October 28; the government-run Philippine News Agency, which carried a story last October 31. The local news sites don't show the story in their archives. The traditional news sites also didn't pick up the news.

DISPUTE OVER WHICH LAW TO USE. The most recent SC ruling said Radaza disputed with Sandiganbayan over the change of the section of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act under which he will be charged.

The SC shot down all of Radaza's arguments, including the remedy he adopted, saying certiorari corrects errors of jurisdiction not errors of judgment. It said Radaza's arguments were "too trivial" and "too vacuous" to delay the prosecution of the former mayor.

Radaza questioned, among others, whether his "mere signature" on the POWE, or program of works and estimates, "sufficiently established probable cause." Things evidentiary in nature, the SC ruled, are "better threshed out in a full-blown trial."

ANNOYED OVER DELAYS. The high court, the August SC ruling said, "indulged in a wordy discourse on the baselessness of Radaza's prolonged saga against the informations and resolutions filed by the Ombudsman" just so to finally end it.

Its order to Sandiganbayan shows some annoyance over the delay: the anti-graft court "is enjoined to fully dispose of the case with dispatch and without tolerance for further needless delays."

[Explainer: Sandiganbayan convicts 4 persons over decorative lamps in Lapu-Lapu, clears all 11 over similar lamps in Mandue, October 1, 2020]

[] Text of August 4, 2011 Supreme Court ruling in Radaza vs Sandiganbayan and People (GR #201380): https://sc.judiciary,gov.ph/21855/

WHAT WERE ALREADY RESOLVED. Administrative complaint against Radaza, along with that against former Mandaue City mayor Thadeo Ouano, was dropped by the Court of Appeals (CA) in 2017: Ouano, by reason of his death in 2016; and Radaza, by reason of the Aguinaldo Doctrine; he was reelected in 2010.

As to others administratively charged, the CA in 2011 upheld the dismissal of 14 Department of Public Works and Highways officials who were found guilty of grave misconduct over the purchase of the street lamps.

On the criminal charges, in the Sandiganbayan ruling of September 24, 2020, only four of 11 persons charged over the lamps bought for Lapu-Lapu City were found guilty of corruption; and all the 11 persons indicted over the purchase of the lamps for Mandaue City were cleared. The three included a DPWH regional director, the maintenance division chief, and a member of the bids and awards committee. The fourth was an officer of Gampik Construction and Development Inc., the supplier.

For Lapu-Lapu, where former mayor Radaza is still facing trial before the Sandiganbayan, 120 sets were bought costing P35.63 million. Excess of cost in Lapu-Lapu was estimated at P12.6 million.

NEXT THING TO WATCH, if people won't be distracted by other events, is whether the Sandiganbayan will follow the SC order. If Radaza -- more precisely his lawyers -- succeeded in delaying his arraignment for 15 years, a few years more of "needless" delay cannot be ruled out.

Arturo Radaza, who had served as city mayor and congressman in Lapu-Lapu's lone district, is not running for any position in 2022. His wife, Paz Radaza, also former mayor and former congresswoman, is, against incumbent Mayor Junard "Ahong" Chan.

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