The Sandiganbayan will not be influenced by the change in the political leadership when it comes to deciding cases, the anti-graft court’s Presiding Justice Amparo Cabotaje-Tang said on Wednesday.
The magistrate made the statement when asked on allegations that the new administration had something to do with the dismissal of several high-profile cases earlier this year.
“I don’t believe that’s the case. Please disabuse your minds [of the notion]that simply because there is a change in the administration, magbabago na rin ‘yung pananaw namin sa ebidensya [the way we see evidence will also change],” Tang told reporters.
“The court will never be swayed, we have been saying this, the court will not be swayed by change in governments, change in the political leadership because we adhere strictly to the requirement that whenever we render judgments or promulgate resolutions, it should be based on what is before us, meaning, the evidence that is before the court,” she said.
In August, the court’s Fourth Division granted demurrers to evidence filed by former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria-Macapagal Arroyo, her husband Jose Miguel “Mike” Arroyo and former Commission on Elections Chairman Benjamin Abalos Sr. and dismissed over insufficient evidence graft charges filed against them in 2011 in connection with the botched $329-million national broadband network (NBN) deal.
In September, the court’s Special Fifth Division granted demurrer to evidence filed by former National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Director General Romulo Neri and dismissed over insufficient evidence a graft case filed against him in 2010 also in connection with the NBN deal.
In the same month, the court’s First Division dismissed a graft case filed against Sen. Manuel “Lito” Lapid and several others in connection with the allegedly anomalous purchase of fertilizers in 2004, “for violation of their rights to the speedy disposition of their cases” after it found that the delay in the Office of the Ombudsman’s preliminary investigation was unwarranted.
The court’s Fifth Division has also thrown out a malversation case filed against former Batangas governor Jose Antonio Leviste in connection with cash advances that he allegedly failed to liquidate in 2003 when he was chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Philippine Retirement Authority.
It held that “he was not the public officer who had the custody of such public funds and was therefore not accountable for them, and could therefore not have misappropriated them.”
In October, the court’s Special Fifth Division dismissed for insufficient evidence a graft case filed in 2006 against former Makati Mayor Elenita Binay and several others in connection with the allegedly anomalous award to Asia Concept International Inc. of procurement of office partitions and furniture amounting to P21.7 million for the New Makati City Hall Building in 2000.
The cases arising from the award against former City Councilor Salvador Pangilinan; former City Administrator Nicanor Santiago Jr.; former Makati General Services Department head Ernesto Aspillaga; and the firm’s then-Chief Executive Officer Beda Aquino and then-Corporate Officer Bernadette Aquino were also dismissed.
On November 17, the court’s Fourth Division acquitted Binay and two others in a graft case filed against them in 2006 in connection with the allegedly anomalous procurement of office panel partitions, accessories and assorted furniture for the Makati City Hall in 1999.
The court found that the prosecution failed to establish the elements of the offense charged. Also acquitted were Aspillaga and Vivian Edurise, then-corporate officer of Office Gallery International Inc.
On November 28, the court’s Special Second Division dismissed for lack of probable cause a plunder case filed in 2011 against former Department of Agriculture Secretary Luis Lorenzo Jr., former Undersecretary Jocelyn
“Joc-Joc” Bolante, former Assistant Secretary Ibarra Poliquit and several others in connection with the fertilizer fund scam. The cases against Jaime Paule, Marilyn Araos, Joselito Flordeliza, Marites Aytona and Leonicia Marco-Llarena were also dismissed.
Earlier this month, the court’s Second Division dismissed for lack of probable cause graft charges as well as a case of reckless imprudence resulting in multiple homicide and physical injuries that were filed against
Valenzuela City (Metro Manila) Mayor Rexlon Gatchalian and two then-officers of the Business Permits and Licensing Office, Renchi May Padayao and Eduardo Carreon.
They were charged over the issuance of business permits to Kentex Manufacturing Corporation in 2014 and 2015 that enabled the firm to continue operating with “inadequate” fire safety measures.