DOY LAUREL POSTS BAIL FOR EXPO SCAM CASE

Salvador 'Doy' LaurelQuezon City, April 3, 2003 -- Former vice-president Salvador Laurel posted a 30,000-peso bail at the Sandiganbayan anti-graft court Tuesday, avoiding arrest for alleged anomalies in the construction of the 1998 Centennial Exposition project in Pampanga province.

A warrant for his arrest had not been served, still lacking signatures of Sandiganbayan justices.

Laurel, who served as vice president to Corazon Aquino, had to submit himself to fingerprinting but avoided having his mug shots taken by bringing his own pictures.

A Supreme Court ruling that Laurel could be charged at the Sandiganbayan paved the way for his indictment for graft on March 20.

Laurel had argued that he could not be tried by the Sandiganbayan because he did not act as a government official in overseeing the exposition project but as chairman of the National Centennial Commission.

His counsel Jose Oliveros accompanied the 72-year-old Laurel in posting bail Wednesday at the anti-graft court's Fifth Division at around 3:30 p.m.

The Ombudsman on March 21 sued Laurel for committing allegedly questionable acts as the chair of the National Centennial Commission and the Philippine Centennial Exposition '98 Corp.

The Freedom Ring complex was constructed in Pampanga province by the Fidel Ramos administration for the Philippine Centennial commemoration in 1998. It was supposed to include a 2.8-hectare amphitheater that could seat 35,000 people.

The charge against Laurel cited the following: . disregarding the master plan of the architectural firm Douglas/Gallagher for the Freedom Ring and increasing its original budget from 248 million pesos to 1.165 billion "without (a) known and available source of funding" . awarding the project to Asia Construction Development Authority, or Asiakonstruct, and "'issuing Notice to Proceed without the benefit of a formal contract" . allowing payment of 384.8 million pesos to Asiakonstruct "without the benefit of a competitive public bidding" as required by law and by the Commission on Audit.

Former president Ramos was initially one of the respondents in the graft complaint but was cleared in February 2000 by then-ombudsman Aniano Desierto


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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