• Court acquits Lipa mayor, wife of graft

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    The Sandiganbayan’s First Division has acquitted Lipa city mayor Meynardo Sabili and his wife Bernadette Palomares-Sabili of the graft case in connection with a deal between the city and a media services firm in 2012 for failure of the prosecution to prove their guilt.

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    The case stemmed from the case filed by the Office of the Ombudsman last year accusing the mayor, allegedly in conspiracy with Palomares-Sabili who was the then owner/proprietor of BPS Broadcasting and Media Services, of entering into a contract for the airing of a radio program from January 7 to December 31, 2012 and supposedly paid P30,000 monthly.

    “Failing to demonstrate accused Meynardo’s actual contribution [to BPS Broadcasting]and establish the accused’ co-ownership over BPS Broadcasting, the prosecution was unable to hurdle the burden of proving that accused Meynardo had a direct or indirect pecuniary interest over the subject contract,” the court said in a resolution.

    According to the court, it was not disputed that BPS Broadcasting was registered solely under Bernadette’s name and that Meynardo and Bernadette were not yet married to each other when the contract was executed in January 2012.

    Records show that they got married on September 28, 2012, according to the resolution.

    “Such change in relations between the accused required BPS Broadcasting to return to the city government, which it did, the payment received for the months of October to December 2012,” the court said.

    The court also lifted the hold-departure order issued against them, and ordered the release of the bonds they had posted for their provisional liberty.

    REINA C. TOLENTINO

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