Court upholds acquittal of ex-GenSan mayor

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The Sandiganbayan’s Seventh Division has affirmed its ruling acquitting South Cotabato first district Rep. Pedro Acharon Jr. and two other officials of graft which stemmed from the issuance of a travel order when he was mayor of General Santos City in 2006.

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Acharon was cleared along with former Sangguniang Panlungsod (City Council) members Jose Orlando Acharon and Minda Atendido in a court decision last March, which the Ombudsman objected to by filing a motion for reconsideration.

The anti-graft court, in denying the appeal for lack of merit, cited a precedent Supreme Court (SC) ruling which held that “as a rule, a judgment of acquittal cannot be reconsidered because it places the accused under double jeopardy.”

Under the Bill of Rights in the 1987 Constitution, “no person shall be twice put in jeopardy of punishment for the same offense.”

The court cited another SC ruling which states that a “judgment of acquittal, whether ordered by the trial or the appellate court, is final, unappealable, and immediately executory upon its promulgation. This is referred to as the ‘finality-of-acquittal’ rule.”

In 2010, the Office of the Ombudsman filed the case alleging that the travel order was issued to then-city councilors Acharon and Atendido for their trip to United States on June 9 to 16, 2006 even when their request for authority to travel was disapproved by the then-secretary of the Department of the Interior and Local Government.

The foreign travel was for the two then-city councilors’ participation in the Pagana Dinner and Tambayayong Festival 2006 in Los Angeles.

The court held that “[n]o undue injury caused to the government was proven” and said Acharon and Atendido “cannot be deemed as private parties” who were allegedly given unwarranted benefits, advantage or preference.

It added that the foreign travel was supposedly official in nature and the delegation of the former city councilors to the festival “was in their capacity as [then-]‘City Councilor’ of General Santos City.”

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