The anti-graft court Sandiganbayan’s Sixth Division on Thursday canceled the arraignment of former Philippine National Police officials Raul Petrasanta, Eduardo Acierto, Nelson Bautista and Ricardo Zapata Jr. in a graft case they are facing in connection with the allegedly anomalous courier deal entered into by the PNP with Werfast Documentation Agency Inc. (Werfast) in 2011.
The court reset their arraignment to September 22 as it granted the defendants’ motion to reset September 1, 2016 arraignment that was filed on August 25.
“With all due respect, the accused move for cancellation of the arraignment scheduled in said date because the undersigned as their counsel will still be in the United States for health reasons and annual medical check-up and will be back on September 14, 2016,” the camp of Petrasanta, Acierto, Bautista and Zapata Jr. said in the motion.
They asked the court to reset the arraignment to October 6.
Petrasanta, Acierto, Bautista and Zapata Jr. were among those charged by the Office of the Ombudsman in May 2016 along with former PNP director general Alan Purisima over the courier deal.
The Sandiganbayan’s Sixth Division found probable cause to try the case also in May.
Purisima and five other respondents including former PNP officials Gil Meneses, Allan Parreño, Melchor Reyes, Ford Tuazon and Napoleon Estilles were then arraigned in June and pleaded not guilty to the charge.
Eleven other former police officials were not arraigned because of pending motions including Petrasanta, Acierto, Lenbell Fabia, Sonia Calixto, Bautista and Zapata Jr.
Mario Juan, Salud Bautista, Enrique Valerio, Lorna Perena and Juliana Pasia—who were identified in the charge sheet as then-Werfast incorporators—were also not arraigned.
In filing the case, the Ombudsman alleged that the respondents gave Werfast unwarranted benefits, advantage or preference.
The respondents allegedly entered into a memorandum of agreement with the firm for courier services for firearms license applications, approved and implemented as mandatory the delivery by courier of firearms license cards and granted Werfast accreditation as the PNP’s courier service provider for all such applications despite the firm’s supposed failure to comply with government regulations on courier services.
Such regulations include prior registration with the Securities and Exchange Commission, authority from the Department of Transportation and Communications to operate a delivery service and accreditation by the Department of Science and Technology.
The PNP terminated the deal in 2014.