Anti-graft court allows dropping of 66 estafa cases vs former DOF official

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Anti-graft court allows dropping of 66 estafa cases vs former DOF official

Former Quezon City Mayor Herbert "Bistek" Bautista emerges from a “not guilty plea” at the Sandigan Bayan in Quezon City on May 18, 2023, on his arraignment on the graft and corruption charges filed against him and Quezon City Administrator Aldrin Junia by the Quezon City government for their involvement in the Online Permitting Tracking System contract worth 32 million pesos.

FILE PHOTO/Jire Carreon/Rappler

Because the Ombudsman admits it no longer has any evidence to offer that would secure the conviction of the accused, the prosecution withdraws the case against a former official of the Department of Finance

MANILA, Philippines – After over a decade since she was indicted, the anti-graft court agreed to drop the 66 counts of estafa thru falsification of public documents charges filed by the Ombudsman against a former official of the Department of Finance.

In an Omnibus Motion filed last January 3, the Ombudsman told the Sandiganbayan that it wanted to withdraw the case against Charmelle Recoter, a former senior tax specialist of the DOF-One-Stop Shop Inter-Agency Tax Credit and Duty Drawback Center (DOF Center), as well as the rest of the co-accused in the case.

Recoter was named a co-defendant when former DOF officials were indicted on December 9, 2012  in relation to alleged unlawful transfer of tax credit certificates (TCCs) of oil companies.

Also charged then were the late Undersecretary and DOF Center executive director Antonio Belicena, other DOF officials, and executives of oil companies.

What led to the filing of the cases was a 1998 Senate investigation which found out that the DOF Center issued between P5.3 to 6 billion worth of falsified TCCs. 

The Ombudsman’s motion gave the anti-graft court the following reasons for intending to discontinue the case:

  • The Sandiganbayan dismissed in 2015 all cases against Pilipinas Shell-Treasury and taxation department general manager Pacifico Cruz;  
  • The dismissal of cases against Petron Corporation vice president for marketing Celso Legarda based on the principle of res judicata, which bars litigation of issues that have already been resolved with finality;
  • Back then, the Sandiganbayan also noted that a pair of separate Supreme Court rulings –  in 2007 and 2010 – had already determined that the oil firms involved transferred the TCC in good faith even though there were questions on the validity these instruments.  These tax credit certificates were  issued in favor of textile firms and bus companies which were later swapped for fuel.

The Ombudsman conceded in its motion that it could no longer convict the accused because the witnesses and documentary evidence it planned to present were rendered useless.

The prosecution also said that Ombudsman Samuel Martires allowed  the dropping of the cases.

The anti-graft court agreed with the futility of the proceedings and allowed prosecution to discontinue pursuing the 66 counts of estafa thru falsification of public documents it filed against Recoter. 

Recoter surfaced on August 24, 2023 then posted a bail of  P70,000. 

“This Court deems it appropriate and practical to grant the Motion of the prosecution. It would be futile to proceed with the trial in these cases when the prosecution would not be able to present vital witnesses and evidence needed to put the accused on trial and convict them,” said the Sandiganbayan First Division.

In 2021, the Sandiganbayan also junked 44 counts of graft and 46 counts of estafa thru falsification of  public documents related to the multi-billion pesos TCC scam.  The reason was that all of the prosecution’s  witnesses were either dead or could not be found.  –

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