MANILA, Philippines - The Sandiganbayan has acquitted former Armed Forces chief of staff AFP Lisandro Abadia of perjury charges after prosecutors from the Office of the Ombudsman submitted as evidence mere photocopies of Lisandro's statements of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN) for 1993 and 1994.
The Sandiganbayan 2nd Division issued its decision last May 10, a day after it approved a controversial plea bargaining agreement between the Omnudsman and former military comptroller Maj. Gen. Carlos F. Garcia.
In its 19-page decision penned by Associate Justice Samuel R. Martires, the graft court granted Abadia’s Demurrer to Evidence as it declared that the prosecution’s evidence was inadequate to support its allegations against the defendant.
The court said the Ombudsman violated procedures saying the case should not have been filed outright because Republic Act 6713 or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Government Officials and Employees allows the defendant a chance to correct any inaccuracy in his SALN.
“Failure of the Ombudsman to observe these procedural requirements render the filing of the instant case against Gen. Abadia premature,” the court declared.
The case was filed with the Sandiganbayan on August 12, 2005 within the term of resigned Ombudsman Ma. Merceditas Gutierrez.
Prosecutors accused Abadia of misrepresenting his real net worth in his 1993 SALN wherein he declared total assets worth P7,135,000 including the proceeds of the sale of his stocks in Palawan Oil and Gas Corp in the amount of P4,264,971.
They said the inclusion of the stock proceeds was false because the actual sale reportedly took place only on January 13 and 20, 1994.
But during trial, the prosecution presented only photocopies of Abadia’s 1993 and 1994 SALNs and claimed they were admissible against the accused as “secondary evidence” because the originals could no longer be found.
Malacañang Records Officer Elenita G. Gatbunton later testified that she failed to find any original or certified true copies of Abadia’s SALNs for the years in question.
The court said the prosecution was fully aware that there were several other government offices who could have retained competent copies of the said documents in their records including AFP resident Ombudsman, the Civil Service Commission, the AFP-Office of Ethical Standards and Public Accountability (OESPA), Command Military Personnel File (deputy chief of staff) and Field Unit MPF.
“Evidently, the prosecution failed to establish the loss or destruction or unavailability of the original of Gen. Abadia’s SALN for 1993 and 1994. Therefore, considering that the original sworn (SALNs)…of Gen. Abadia was not produced by the prosecution, this Court has no document from which to ascertain if accused Abadia made a willful and deliberate assertion of falsehood..,” the court said.