MANILA - The Sandiganbayan 1st Division has acquitted former mayor Enrico Echiverri, city accountant Edna Centeno and city budget officer Jesusa Garcia of their graft and falsification of public documents cases involving a barangay road and a drainage improvement project.
The Office of the Ombudsman accused Echiverri of graft for awarding P.B. Grey Construction an P8.08 million contract for the improvement of roads and drainage system at Phase 6, Green Valley, Barangay 178 in 2011.
Centeno and Garcia were also accused of graft as well as one count of falsification of public documents for their allegedly false statements on an Allotment and Obligation Slip (ALOBS) when there was supposedly no appropriation for the project.
In the decision of the anti-graft court promulgated April 16, 2018, it was established that appropriate procedures for procurement were done, with the Commission on Audit saying there was no violation of procurement laws.
The court also said there was no undue injury caused by the project.
“No less than prosecution witness Esperanza Martinez admitted that the City of Caloocan continues to benefit from the omnibus term loan up to the year 2016 which, in turn, is a clear indication that the Land Bank of the Philippines has been satisfied with the way the local government unit has complied with its obligation thereunder,” the court said in its decision penned by Justice Edgardo Caldona, with the concurrence of 1st Division Chair Efren Dela Cruz and Associate Justice Geraldine Faith Econg.
The court also said that there was no adequate evidence against Centeno and Garcia because based on the testimony of prosecution witness Lorenzo Sunga Jr., there were previously issued appropriation ordinances that could support the certifications in the ALOBS.
“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. It is therefore futile to still require the accused to adduce evidence for their defense,” the court said.
The court noted that City Ordinance No. 0464 which enacted the 1.42 supplemental budget from a loan from Landbank, does not only cover the Barangay 178 road and drainage project, but also other projects such as sports centers, public markets, barangay halls, electrification programs and others.
Echiverri has 43 other cases also stemming from the projects under the P1.42 billion loan from Landbank in various divisions of the Sandiganbayan.