• Court acquits retired general, 2 others

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    The Sandiganbayan’s Fifth Division has acquitted retired B/Gen. Cesar Gopilan and two others accused of involvement in the alleged anomalous construction of school buildings in 2002.

    The other two were private individuals Elmer Aytona and Jorge Javier, formerly from Edibok Construction and General Merchandise and J. Javier Construction Trading, respectively.

    The court said the prosecution failed to present evidence to prove the guilt of the accused beyond reasonable doubt.

    “The evidence on record does not establish the fact that accused Aytona and Javier were given the contracts to construct the school buildings. The construction of the buildings by accused Aytona and Javier is a key element that must be proven by the prosecution. This is a factum probans without which this entire case will fall,” it added.

    The anti-graft court ordered the release of the bonds posted by the accused for their provisional liberty. It also lifted the hold departure orders it issued which barred them from leaving the country without permission.

    In its ruling, the court said “[t]he documents offered by the prosecution in this case, on their faces, would show that accused Aytona and Javier participated in the PGMA project as supplier of materials.”

    The project involved the construction of 220 school buildings across the country.

    The charge sheet alleged that Gopilan, who was then the chief of engineers of the armed forces and the project administrator for the construction of 38 PGMA school buildings, allowed Aytona and Javier to construct 36 school buildings without public bidding.

    “The theory of the prosecution is that all these documents were falsified to cover up the scheme where Aytona and Javier were contracted to build and were only shown to have been paid as suppliers. It is the burden of the prosecution to show that these documents are not what they are purported to be,” the court said.

    However, it found “no convincing independent evidence to corroborate” the testimonies of prosecution witnesses who claimed that the documents they signed were falsified.

    “Without proof that accused Aytona and Javier constructed the school buildings, there would be no factual basis to convict them,” the court said. REINA TOLENTINO

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