Court clears ex-Zambo mayor of graft

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The Sandiganbayan’s Third Division has acquitted former Mayor Wilfredo Balais of Labason town, Zamboanga del Norte, in a graft case in connection with purchase of heavy equipment and machinery in 1999.

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The division’s Clerk of Court, Dennis Pulma, read the dispositive portion of the ruling acquitting Balais and his co-accused, Emily Rose Ko Lim Chao, after the prosecution failed to prove their guilt beyond reasonable doubt.

The decision was signed by Presiding Justice Amparo Cabotaje-Tang and concurred in by Associate Justices Samuel Martires and Ma. Theresa Dolores Gomez-Estoesta.

In acquitting Balais and Chao, the court accordingly lifted the hold departure order that it earlier issued against the accused.

The court also ordered that the P30,000 cash bail bond that Balais and Chao posted be returned.

The Office of the Ombudsman filed the case in 2011, accusing Balais and Chao, former proprietor of KD Surplus, violating Section 3(g) of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

The Ombudsman alleged that Balais entered into a deal with KD Surplus through Chao in 1999 for the purchase of several sets of heavy equipment and machinery.

It also alleged that the transaction was “grossly and manifestly disadvantageous to the government” because the purchase prices were higher by P2.49 million than the prices that Chao initially offered when she and Balais began negotiating the deal in 1998, “or even before accused Balais was authorized by the Sangguniang Bayan to purchase the heavy equipment and machinery.”

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