SC affirms Echiverri's acquittal in graft case

Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 31 2018 04:42 PM

MANILA - The Supreme Court has affirmed the Sandiganbayan’s decision to acquit former Caloocan City Mayor Enrico Echiverri from graft charges in connection with an P8-million road and drainage construction project.

In a brief resolution dated October 1, the SC Second Division ruled that the Sandiganbayan correctly dismissed the graft charges against Echiverri and other respondents due to lack of evidence.

The Office of the Ombudsman accused Echiverri of graft for allegedly unduly favoring P.B. Grey Construction in awarding an P8.08 million contract for the improvement of roads and the drainage system at Phase 6, Green Valley, Barangay 178 in the city in 2011.

Two others, Edna Centeno and Jesusa Garcia, were also accused of graft and one count of falsification of public documents for allegedly falsely certifying that there was appropriation for the project when there was supposedly none.

After the prosecution presented its evidence, Echiverri moved to dismiss the case citing lack of evidence.

In its April 2018 decision, the Sandiganbayan found that the prosecution’s own evidence showed that Caloocan City’s Sangguniang Panlungsod authorized Echiverri, through an ordinance enacting a supplemental budget, to enter into various city development projects, including road and drainage improvement.

It also found that the project was ratified by the city council through a resolution and that the project went through public bidding, thus, acquitting Echiverri from the graft charge.

The anti-graft court also dismissed the falsification charge against Centeno and Garcia because it was shown that there were indeed funds to support the project.

SUPREME COURT SAYS DISMISSAL CAN'T BE OVERTURNED

In its resolution, the SC cited the factual findings of the Sandiganbayan as proof that the grant of Echiverri’s motion was warranted and did not constitute grave abuse of discretion.

It also classified the dismissal of the charges as an “acquittal” that “can no longer be overturned.”

“At this juncture, the Court emphasizes that the grant of respondents’ Demurrer to Evidence operates as an acquittal, thus, a reopening of the case will subject them to double jeopardy,” the SC said.

Echiverri has 43 other cases before the Sandiganbayan stemming from projects he entered into under a P1.42 billion-loan from the Land Bank of the Philippines. The loan is covered by a city ordinance.