The anti-graft court has ruled to proceed with the trial of Cagayan de Oro Mayor Oscar Moreno as it rejected the defense’s move not to present evidence anymore in connection with a dozen graft cases filed by the Office of the Ombudsman five years ago.
Moreno’s lawyer, Bryan Dale Mordeno, confirmed on Wednesday, November 24, that the Sandiganbayan trashed the motion for leave of court to file demurrer to evidence submitted by Moreno and two other former Misamis Oriental officials.
The submission of a motion for leave of court to file demurrer to evidence is like moving to waive the presentation of proof, which usually happens when the accused is confident that the prosecution has a weak case to establish guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. In effect, it is like moving for the dismissal of the case.
The criminal cases stemmed from a 2016 complaint filed by engineer Antonio Nuñez, who accused Moreno and several former capitol officials of spending some P15 million in capitol funds through dozens of negotiated procurement and small-value purchase deals made from 2007 to 2012, when the Cagayan de Oro mayor was the provincial governor.
The deals were for the lease of heavy equipment for a road project in Lantad, an outlying village in Balingasag town that served as a training ground of the New People’s Army (NPA) in the 1980s.
Nuñez alleged that the deals were made without the green light of the provincial government’s bids and awards committee (BAC), and were violations of the Government Procurement Reform Act.
The Sandiganbayan Second Division ruled to dismiss the motion filed by Moreno, former provincial engineer Rolando Pacuribot, and former provincial legal officer Cancio Nicanor Guibone, stating that there was prima facie evidence against the three accused.
Mordeno said the defense was preparing to make a presentation based on the November 23 Sandiganbayan ruling.
“I think we will be able to submit our evidence early next year,” Mordeno said.
Moreno’s group filed the motion as an offshoot of a 2019 Court of Appeals (CA) decision that dismissed 24 administrative cases against Moreno, Pacuribot, Guibone, and five other former capitol officials who sat as members of the BAC.
The administrative cases were for serious dishonesty, grave misconduct, and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of public service.
The cases with the Sandiganbayan now are the criminal aspect but are the same.
The others who were cleared of administrative liability by the appellate court in 2019 were Elsie Lopoy, Elmer Wabe, Leemar Tinagan, Divina Bade, and Patrick Gabutina.
Mordeno said two of the criminal cases were dismissed earlier by another division of the Sandiganbayan because it found the former Misamis Oriental officials’ right to speedy trial violated.
In a statement released on Wednesday, Mayor Moreno said the latest Sandiganbayan ruling applied to a dozen criminal cases. One report however said there were 16 cases covered by the ruling of the anti-graft court.
“While we appreciate the zeal with which the Prosecution has discharged its duties – and no less is expected of public servants who are called to ensure the incorruptibility of our government’s officials – we remain poised to exhaust all legal remedies that are still available for us to utilize,” Moreno said.
Moreno said he and the co-accused saw the dismissal of their motion as a chance “to present our evidence,” and “when we do, the truth remains to be the strongest arsenal in our favor.” – Rappler.com