By Czarina Nicole Ong
Former Caloocan City mayor Enrico Echiverri has been acquitted once again by the Sandiganbayan First Division of graft in relation to the P1.7 million pathwalk and drainage project for the city in 2011.
From June 1 to December 22, 2011, Echiverri awarded P1,778,559.94 to E.V. & E. Construction (EVEC) for the improvement of Pathwalk and Drainage System at Phase 8, Package 1, Bagong Silang, Barangay 176 in Caloocan City. However, the prosecution said that this was done without an itemized appropriation ordinance from the Sangguniang Panlungsod ng Caloocan (SPC).
He was accused of violating Section 3(e) of R.A. 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act alongside former Budget Officer Jessica Cruz Garcia and former City Accountant Edna Villanueva Centeno. Garcia and Centeno were slapped with an additional falsification charge.
To recall, the First Division already dismissed one of their cases after their demurrer to evidence was granted. A demurrer to evidence is an act challenging that the prosecution’s evidence. It is not enough to sustain a guilty verdict, and the anti-graft court agreed with Echiverri that the prosecution’s evidence is weak.
The resolution was elevated to the Supreme Court with a petition for certiorari, but the SC only affirmed the court’s ruling. Because the dismissed case deals with the same ordinances and resolutions as the ones being discussed now, the Sandiganbayan said that the earlier pronouncement of the SC “leans favorably to benefit the herein accused.”
“This court remains convinced that there is no evidence to even hint that accused mayor Echiverri was motivated by evident bad faith in entering into contract for the improvement of pathwalk and drainage system,” the decision read.
“The project itself was admittedly completed and properly accepted by the local government and has since been serving the purpose for which it has been implemented,” it added.
The court further stressed that there was no undue injury or actual damage caused to the government with regard to the project implementation. At the same time, the private complainant failed to testify during the trial and no adequate evidence was presented to sustain the charges against Echiverri, Garcia and Centeno.
“From the foregoing discussions, it appears crystal clear that the prosecution failed to prove the charges in the instant criminal cases with the required quantum of proof in order to convict at this stage of the proceedings,” the court ruled. “It is therefore futile to still require the accused to adduce evidence for their defense.”
The hold departure order against them dated May 4, 2018 has been ordered recalled, and the bonds posted for their provisional liberty were ordered released.