MANILA - The Sandiganbayan 2nd Division has cleared former senator and now Department of Information and Communication Technology Sec. Gregorio Honasan in two graft cases stemming from the alleged misuse of Priority Development Assistance Funds in 2012.
The anti-graft court granted the demurrer to evidence filed by Honasan as well as Michael Benjamin, Mehol Sadain, Fedelina Aldanese, Olga Galido, Giovanni Gaerlan, Galay Makalinggan and Aurora Aragon-Mabang as evidence that the prosecution failed to sufficiently establish the essential elements of graft.
“Accordingly, the cases against the accused are hereby dismissed,” the court said in the decision penned by Associate Justice Michael Frederick Musngi, with the concurrence of Division Chairperson Oscar Herrera, Jr. and Associate Justice Bernelito Fernandez.
Associate Justices Bayani Jacinto and Zaldy Trespeses concurred and dissented.
Honasan and his co-accused were charged by the Office of the Ombudsman in 2017, following the charges filed against former senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Bong Revilla.
The Ombudsman probe showed that the Department of Budget and Management released P30 million as part of Honasan’s PDAF, with the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos as the implementing agency, to non-government organization Focus Development Goals Foundation Inc.
The funds were supposedly for livelihood projects for Muslim communities in the National Capital Region and Zambales.
The Ombudsman said that based on documents from June 2012, Honasan endorsed Focus Development Goals Foundation Inc. without complying with procurement requirements.
A check and a disbursement voucher showed he facilitated the payment of two tranches amounting to P29.1 million.
But after trial, the court said that the prosecution failed to prove that Honasan unilaterally chose and endorsed the foundation.
The court noted that Honasan’s participation was limited to the signing of the memorandum of agreement and there was no allegation as to his participation in the selection process.
Undue injury to any party was also not established as post-audit revealed that the livelihood projects had been implemented.
“Based on a careful study of the records of the case, the court finds the evidence of the prosecution is insufficient to prove the commission of the crime and the precise degree of participation therein of the accused,” the court said.
With the dismissal of the cases, the court also ordered that the hold departure orders against the accused be lifted and their bail bonds released.