General, aide convicted for accepting bribe
MANILA, Philippine – For soliciting money from military recruits, a former general and his aide were convicted by the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan of direct bribery and fined for P60,000 ($1,308).
But the general was cleared in two other cases lodged against him.
In a 43-page decision on October 14, the court’s Third Division ruled against former Army Major General Jose T. Barbieto and his aide, Staff Sergeant Roseller A. Echipare, who allegedly accepted money in exchange for the enlistment of an applicant to the Philippine Army in January 2008.
“The recruitment of candidate soldiers applicants to the Philippine Army is not a “transaction” involving monetary consideration within the purview of Section 3(b) of Republic Act No. 3019 (The Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act). This pronouncement however does not completely absolve them from criminal liablity… (as) the allegations make out a case of direct bribery,” the court said.
Associate Justice Alex Quiroz penned the ruling concurred in by Presiding Justice Amparo Babotaje-Tang and Associate Justice Samuel Martires.
The two accused were sentenced to imprisonment of 3 years, 6 months and 5 days, and fined P60,000 equivalent to 3 times the amount received from complainant Staff Sergeant Allan Joel Timbal.
Case records showed the cases were filed on June 17, 2010 alleging that Barbieto and Echipare asked Timbal to produce P20,000 in exchange for a favorable action on the application for enlistment of his brother-in-law Ronald Raut.
The offense allegedly took place when Barbieto was commanding general of the 4th Infantry Division assigned in Camp Edilberto Evangelista in Cagayan de Oro City.
Barbieto and Echipare were originally charged with two counts of graft and one count of malversation of public funds. However, they were both acquitted of the other charges on the basis of reasonable doubt.
The second graft case involved a similar scheme, this time concerning the application for enlistment of one Private Butch Ramos who was reportedly made to shell out P25,000 ($544).
In the malversation case, prosecutors accused Barbieto of pocketing P3 million ($66,000) which was part of the fund allocation for the Balik-Baril program of the government and the Armed Forces of the Philippines to encourage re-integration of armed insurgents.
In clearing the accused in the second graft charge, the court noted that a key element of the crime was left in doubt because the name of Ramos was not in the list of applicants who underwent physical examination by the medical team of the 4th ID and neither was he included in the list of candidates submitted approved by Barbieto for training.
On the P3 million Balik-Baril Funds, the court said that the prosecution filed an unfounded malversation charge noting that Barbieto was not the accountable officer for money but Captain Brigen Bitoy, who turned over the sum to her senior officer, Lt. Jeman Montealto, the unit's special disbursing officer.
In her testimony during trial, Bitoy admitted that Montealto later gave the P2.8 million balance back to her custody and she deposited the sum with the Philippine Army’s account at Land Bank of the Philippines.
She said that the amount of P322,000 ($7,000) have already been paid out to rebels who surrendered 31 firearms in early 2008.
“Although the prosecution attempted to establish and provide certain circumstances surrounding the Balik-Baril program that an ordinary prudent man may find suspicious, if an act is susceptible of two meanings, the court takes a firm stance that in the absence of proof beyond reasonable doubt, the scale of the balance shall always tilt in favor of the innocence of the accused,” the Sandiganbayan said. – Rappler.com