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MANILA, Philippines – The Sandiganbayan has denied motions filed by former Palawan Governor Joel Reyes and other officials who had sought the outright dismissal of 159 criminal charges filed by the Ombudsman in 2017.
The graft cases involve 210 public works projects in 2008 worth P1.585 billion funded by royalties from the operations of the Malampaya-Camago natural gas field.
In his motion for leave to file demurrer to evidence, Reyes said the prosecution’s evidence failed to specify his participation in alleged bidding irregularities in the projects.
Reyes said he was entitled to presumption of good faith for relying on the representations of his subordinates who, he said, had more involvement in reviewing the infrastructure projects.
His co-accused invoked the same argument on insufficient evidence. They also questioned the failure of the prosecution to establish conspiracy between the public officials and private contractors.
The Ombudsman had filed cases for 75 counts of violation of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, 77 counts of falsification of public documents, and seven counts of violations of Section 2 of Presidential Decree 1759. In addition to public officials involved, this PD penalizes contractors who violate provisions of a public works contract.
Aside from Reyes, the former Palawan officials who had been charged were:
- provincial administrator Romeo M. Seratubias
- general services officer Ferdinand S. Dilig
- provincial budget officer Luis M. Marcaida II
- provincial engineer Charlie M. Factor
- provincial treasurer Teofilo S. Palanca Jr.
- provincial planning and development coordinator Samuel V. Madamba II
- Sangguniang Panlalawigan member Rolando E. Bonoan Jr.
- provincial accountant Orlando R. Colobong
- provincial legal officer Elena M. Vergara-Rodriguez.
From the Provincial Engineering Office, named in multiple graft charges were:
- assistant provincial engineers Manuel T. Cabiguen and Federico R. Rubio Jr.
- engineers Renato Abrina, Alfredo Padua, Pepe M. Patacsil, Darrel S. Elivera, Bernard I. Zambales, Rolly V. Matudio, Bayani T. Buenaventura, Cecilia C. Colegio, Pedro V. Gatinga Jr., Tommy S. Panes, Rosario P. Abacial, and Romeo C. Llacuna.
Also charged were state auditor Edwin G. Iglesia and senior technical audit specialist Ronelo O. del Socorro.
The private contractors who had been indicted by the Ombudsman were:
- Bella and Tederico Tiotangco, BCT Trading and Construction with 80 contracts totaling P722.75 million;
- Rosanno C. Talaga, RC Talaga Construction with 14 contracts worth P301.457 million;
- Ulysses P. Consebido, Seven Digit Construction and Supplies with 22 contracts worth P104.347 million;
- Rodolfo M. Gallardo, Rodcel Construction with 22 contracts worth P102.945 million;
- Fernando and Rebecca Tiotangco, Anilos Trading and Construction with 26 contracts worth P91.696 million;
- Lorenzo B. Leoncio, LB Leoncio Trading and Construction with 25 contracts worth P85.117 million;
- Abelardo L. Salazar, AL Salazar Construction Inc. one contract worth P49.709 million;
- Dennis C. Sandil, DC Sandil Construction and Realty Development Inc. with 10 contracts worth P41.636 million;
- Jesus L. Tan, Goldrock Construction and Development Corp., P36.331 million;
- Armando Lustre Jr., AR Lustre Jr. Construction with one contract worth P23.843 million;
- Prospero D. Gabayan Jr., ICON Trading and Construction with five contracts worth P21.024 million;
- Elizabeth A. Tisara, DJ Builders Corp. with two contracts worth P3.782 million.
The Sandiganbayan said the grounds cited by the defense in their motions were “untenable.”
“The Court finds no cogent reasons to grant leave to file demurrer to evidence. At this point of the trial, there being sufficient evidence to sustain the indictment for the crimes charged, the accused movants now bear the evidentiary burden to controvert the evidence of the prosecution,” the Sandiganbayan Second Division said.
However, the court said its decision should not be taken as a ruling on the merits of the case.
“The incident before us is merely a determination of whether the evidence on record is sufficient to sustain the indictment or support a verdict of guilt and does not lead to a conclusion of the guilt or innocence of accused,” the court added.
Associate Justice Arthur O. Malabaguio penned the 15-page resolution. Associate Justices Oscar C. Herrera Jr. and Edgardo M. Caldona concurred. – Rappler.com