Sandiganbayan acquits ex-AFP chief Diomedio Villanueva in graft case
MANILA, Philippines – The anti-graft court Sandiganbayan on Friday, February 22, acquitted former military chief and postmaster general Diomedio Villanueva in a P53-million graft case.
The case was filed against Villanueva in 2003, when he was postmaster general. The case stemmed from the Philippine Postal Corporation's (PPC) refund to private corporation Philpost USA amounting to P53.04 million.
“For failure of the prosecution to prove the guilt of the accused beyond reasonable doubt, accused Diomedio Villanueva is hereby acquitted of the charge of violation of Section 3(e) of RA 3019,” said the Sandiganbayan 1st Division in a decision promulgated on Friday.
Republic Act No. 3019 is the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
The court agreed with Villanueva’s defense that he only approved the refund based on the recommendation of his co-accused, former Assistant Postmaster General and General Manager for Finance Antonio Siapno, who remains at large.
“(Villanueva) did not misrepresent anything to Siapno with regard to the refund sought, nor did he persuade or influence the latter into agreeing with the refund. Also there was no showing that accused Villanueva stood to gain anything should a refund be effected,” said the decision penned by Associate Justice Efren Dela Cruz, with concurrences from Associate Justices Geraldine Faith Econg and Edgardo Caldona.
Philpost USA is a private corporation that had a licensing agreement with PPC for international remailing services using the Philippine postage indicia.
In 2003, Philpost USA asked for a refund to cover the terminal fees it had paid to the Royal Mail for posts sent to the United Kingdom.
The refund was later disallowed by the Commission on Audit (COA).
The Sandiganbayan agreed that the “refund was erroneous as it was carried out despite the fact that it is the PPC, and not the Philpost USA, which ultimately has an obligation to settle with Royal Mail.”
Villanueva was acquitted because the Sandiganbayan said “bad faith cannot be ascribed to his actions as the records are wanting that he was motivated by a dishonest purpose or ill will all in seeking Siapno’s recommendation and eventually, in approving the refund.”
The Sandiganbayan lifted the Hold Departure Order against Villanueva.
Villanueva was among the military officials that the Department of Justice (DOJ) wanted to charge with plunder over the pabaon (send-off money) scandal in 2012.
In 2013, the Office of the Ombudsman dismissed the plunder complaint.
Earlier this year, the Court of Tax Appeals acquitted another one of the so-called "pabaon" generals – former military comptroller Jacinto Ligot – of tax crimes that stemmed from the scandal.
The Ligots still face a related P55-million forfeiture case at the Sandiganbayan. – Rappler.com