Philippine Daily Inquirer

Arrest order hounds Munti ex-mayor’s comeback bid

- By Kristine Felisse Mangunay and Marlon Ramos

FORMER Muntinlupa City Mayor Aldrin San Pedro, who hopes to make a comeback in the May 9 elections, sees the hand of politics in the “rehashed” P22-million graft case which led to the issuance of an arrest warrant against him last week.

In an interview on Saturday, San Pedro said he would post bail once the warrant is served and face the charges in court “so that we can have a regular trial and prove we did nothing wrong.”

The Sandiganba­yan on Friday ordered the arrest of San Pedro and 11 others in connection with the allegedly fraudulent purchase of P22-million worth of school bags during his incumbency in 2008.

The antigraft court’s Second Division threw out the petitions filed by San Pedro and the other respondent­s who sought the dismissal of the charges brought against them by the Office of the Ombudsman.

“After a careful evaluation of the accused separate motions, we find the contention­s therein not sufficient to set aside the findings of probable cause,” the court said in its April 21 decision written by Associate Justice Napoleon Inoturan. “[W]e rule that there exists probable cause to justify the issuance of warrants of arrest with respect to all accused.”

San Pedro, a member of Vice President Jejomar Binay’s United Nationalis­t Alliance, hopes to win back the top City Hall post from reelection­ist Mayor Jaime Fresnedi of the ruling Liberal Party. Three other candidates are running for mayor of Muntinlupa.

Aside from San Pedro, also ordered arrested were Roberto Bunyi, Michael Racelis, Vicente Navarro, Avelino Orellana, Sonia Laureate, Peter Salonga, Rodolfo Oliquindo, Roderick Espina, Edwin Suitado, Eduardo Bautista and Glenn Manuel Santos.

They were all former members of the bids and awards committee and the technical working group which handled the questionab­le project.

The Ombudsman ordered their indictment after discoverin­g that the purchase of 40,000 units of trolley bags, which were distribute­d to students of public elementary schools in the city, did not undergo the required public bidding. The project was also not listed in the city government’s annual procuremen­t plan, the graft investigat­ors noted.

But San Pedro on Saturday said the allegation­s were “merely rehashed,” noting that they first surfaced in a case filed in 2008 by Rafael Arciaga, a local politician running for mayor at the time. It was dismissed the following year, the ex-mayor recalled.

“It was only refiled in 2012, the same complaint with no additional informatio­n, but with a different complainan­t who is Abel Sumabat,” he added.

Sumabat, he said, was part of the secretaria­t of the bids and awards committee under his administra­tion before he stopped reporting for work due to problems he incurred with suppliers.

“The allegation in the complaint is that we did not conduct a bidding, but that is not true. If you look at the complaint, Sumabat attached a document that is a (photo)copy. It’s not original documentat­ion, so that can be fabricated,” he said.

“They were the ones who (refiled) that, the group of Mayor Fresnedi and Ruffy (Biazon) and (incumbent) Congressma­n (Rodolfo) Biazon,” San Pedro said when asked if who could be behind the revived charges. “They (my political rivals) can do everything, but at the end of the day, the truth will come out.”

“The people already know” that there is a political motive, he said, downplayin­g the effects that the case might have on his campaign.

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