The Sandiganbayan’s Special Fifth Division has dismissed the graft complaint filed against former Makati Mayor Elenita Binay and several others in connection with the alleged anomalous purchase of office partitions and furniture amounting to P21.7 million for the New Makati City Hall Building in 2000.
In a 90-page decision promulgated on October 28, the anti-graft court found the prosecution’s evidence insufficient and granted the petition for demurrer to evidence filed in 2014 by Binay and her co-accused Bernadette Aquino, Ernesto Aspillaga and Nicanor Santiago Jr.
A demurrer is a motion filed by a defendant after the prosecution completes its turn to present evidence. It submits the case for judgment based only on the prosecution’s evidence on the ground that the evidence does not warrant conviction.
“Accordingly, the instant case against all the accused, including accused Salvador Pangilinan and accused Beda R. Aquino, is ordered dismissed,” the court said.
It also lifted the hold departure order the court issued against the accused that barred them from leaving the country.
The Office of the Ombudsman filed the case in 2006 alleging that the deal awarded to Asia Concept International, Inc. allegedly through a simulated/rigged public bidding resulted in excess purchases worth P5.9 million and/or supposed overprice of the office partitions and furniture in the amount of P2.78 million.
Named respondents were Binay, former city councilor Pangilinan, former city administrator Santiago; former Makati General Services Department Head Aspillaga, Asia Concept former Chief Executive Officer Beda Aquino and its former Corporate Officer Bernadette Aquino.
“Here, we have ascertained whether the evidence presented by the prosecution suffices to sustain the charges or justify a verdict of guilt and we find the same insufficient for the purpose. The prosecution failed to discharge this burden of proving that the accused violated Section 3(e) of RA 3019 by proof beyond reasonable doubt for its failure (1) to satisfactorily establish that the accused public official acted with evident bad faith, xxx founded on its charge of rigged bidding which has not been conclusively shown to have attended the award of PO 11106 to Asia Concept; (2) to prove conspiracy between the accused public officials on the one hand and the accused private individuals, on the other; and (3) to fully establish undue injury to the government, or unwarranted benefits to Asia Concept, through the accused private individuals, Beda Aquino and Bernadette G. Aquino by reason of the award of PO 11106 to them,” the court said.
Associate Justice Roland Jurado, who leads the court’s Fifth Division, penned the ruling which was concurred in by Associate Justices Samuel Martires and Jose Hernandez.
Associate Justices Ma. Theresa Dolores Gomez-Estoesta and Geraldine Faith Econg dissented. REINA TOLENTINO