June 22, 2024

After staying silent for several years over allegations of corruption made by the mayor of Baguio against the city district engineering office of the Department of Public Works and Highways, the agency has released a statement regarding these issues.

In a letter furnished to the media, Baguio City District Engineer Rene Zarate said issues such as graft, corruption, and acceptance of “substandard” projects raised by Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong against officials of the BCDEO is now under the jurisdiction of the Office of the Ombudsman – the official authority tasked to investigate and adjudicate the presence or absence of illegal and irregular practices committed by public officials.

Zarate reiterated that any allegation of corruption should be supported by evidence. In the absence of proof, he said the presumption that public officers are performing their official function should be upheld.

“Charges based on mere suspicion and speculation cannot be given credence. Allegations of graft and corrupt activities must be supported by evidence. If no evidence is presented, the presumption that public officers are performing their duties should be upheld. Baseless conjectures should never prejudice the continuing efforts of a public officer in carrying out public service,” Zarate, who has been district engineer for four years now, said in his letter.

In a recent interview by a La Union-based media company, Magalong announced he will file seven more complaints against the BCDEO.

The mayor said Zarate is shameless for continuing to stay in his post despite irregularities in the implementation of projects. He said he also pities the district engineer’s subordinates for being implicated in the complaints he filed.

“Naghihintay na lang ako na tanggalin siya dito,” Magalong said, reiterating that even national government officials and appointees should adhere to his policy of a good and clean government. He said public officials found to be in the wrong should be made accountable.

In his letter, Zarate said he will continue doing his duties in accordance with the mandate entrusted to him by his appointing authority, the Secretary of the DPWH.

Early this year, Magalong has filed series of complaints against officials of the BCDEO for violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act for accepting supposedly substandard projects along Bonifacio Street and North Sanitary Camp.

The BCDEO has submitted its answers to the Ombudsman. One of the evidences submitted is a clearance from the Commission on Audit Regional Technical Service Group stating that these projects have been fully-implemented and the minor defects observed have been corrected by the contractor.

The complaints are pending for resolution before the Ombudsman. – Rimaliza A. Opiña