By Czarina Nicole Ong-Ki
The Sandiganbayan Fifth Division has junked another one of former Caloocan City Mayor Enrico Echiverri’s many graft charges as his demurrer to evidence was granted.
A demurrer to evidence is an objection made by the defense contesting that the prosecution’s evidence is insufficient to reach a guilty verdict. If the court grants the demurrer, just like in this case, then the case is dismissed.
Echiverri was slapped with a violation of Section 3(e) of Republic Act (RA) 3019, otherwise known as the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, in relation to the P4,858,832.80 road improvement project and drainage system awarded to P.B. Grey Construction conducted at Phase 10, Pkg. 5, Bagong Silang, Brgy. 176, Caloocan City.
The project was reportedly undertaken without the authority of the city council, and without proper appropriation from the government.
He was facing the charge together with former city budget officer Jesusa Garcia and city accountant Edna Centeño, who were slapped with an additional falsification charge for violation of Article 171, paragraph 4 of the Revised Penal Code.
Echiverri said in his joint demurrer with Garcia and Centeño that the proof of all elements of the crimes charged was inexistent in the prosecution’s evidence. There was likewise no proof of evident bad faith or negligence on their actions, and the prosecution failed to show how they caused undue injury to the government.
And contrary to the claim of the prosecution, Echiverri and his co-accused stressed that the city council authorized them to implement the projects. There was even an appropriation for it because of Caloocan City’s Ordinance No. 0464, series of 2010, which enacted the Supplemental Budget in the amount of P1.42 billion to be funded out of loan proceeds from the Land Bank of the Philippines.
Because of this ordinance, the Commission on Audit (COA) reversed its Notice of Disallowance dated October 23, 2013, which was the foundation of the cases against him.
“The subject contracts, having no other notable defects, this commission holds that a disallowance for the entire disbursement is not warranted,” the decision no. 2017-159 stated.
The anti-graft court noted in its ruling that these events have a “direct impact” on Echiverri’s cases. Another thing the court took notice of was the motion to withdraw pieces of information filed by the prosecution on March 21, 2019 due to “insufficiency of evidence.”
“The Court is convinced based on all the foregoing…that the guilt of the accused cannot be proved beyond reasonable doubt,” the resolution read.
The 27-page resolution was penned by Chairperson Rafael Lagos with the concurrence of Associate Justices Maria Theresa Mendoza-Arcega and Maryann Corpus-Mañalac.