Sandiganbayan says prosecution evidence strong in P6.696-million PRC office space lease case

Adrian Ayalin, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 03 2019 04:12 PM

MANILA - The Sandiganbayan has denied the motion that former Professional Regulation Commission (PRC) Chair Teresita Manzala and other officials filed seeking to lodge a plea that would prompt the dismissal of their case involving the alleged irregular lease of office space in Baguio City from 2011 to 2012.

In a Nov. 22, 2018 resolution, the court said Manzala, as well as then Chief Professional Regulations Officer Sarah Edna Tabije, Regional Director Teofilo Sison, Commissioner Alfredo Po and Supervising Regulations Officer Tricia Camara, may be declared guilty if they do not present their own evidence.

The officials were accused of giving unwarranted benefits to CTLL Building owner Ernesto Delos Santos for the lease of office space amounting to P6.696 million without competitive bidding.

The accused had filed a motion for leave of court to file a demurrer to evidence, which would pave the way for a dismissal of the case on account of insufficient evidence and do away with the presentation of defense evidence if granted.

“After a careful study of the documentary and testimonial evidence presented by the prosecution, the court finds that, if unrebutted, the same is sufficient to support a verdict of guilt against accused Teresita Manzala, Sarah Edna Tabije, Teofilo Gaius Sison, Alfredo Po and Tricia Camara for violation of Republic Act No. 3019,” the court's 6th division said in the resolution promulgated on November 22, 2018.

The resolution was penned by Division Chairperson Sarah Jane Fernandez, with the concurrence of Associate Justice Karl Miranda and Kevin Narce Vivero.

The court noted that the prosecution proved during trial through their witnesses and pieces of evidence that the actions of the accused indicated their obvious preference for CTLL Building.

Manzala, however, stressed that the signing of the letter of intent for the office space lease was taken up during a meeting of the commission and that it went through a review process.

She also noted that there was no undue injury to the government as the space was occupied by PRC Baguio City.

With the denial of their motion for leave, the court said the accused may still file a demurrer to evidence with a warning that the case will be submitted for decision based on the strong evidence presented by the prosecution.

“This is without prejudice to the filing by the accused of a demurrer to evidence without prior leave of court, but subject to the legal consequence provided under Section 23, Rule 119 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure, that is, they shall waive their right to present evidence and are submitting this case for judgment on the basis of the evidence adduced by the prosecution,” the court said.

Under such rule, if the defendant still files a demurrer to evidence without leave of court, "the accused waives the right to present evidence and submits the case for judgment on the basis of the evidence for the prosecution."