Former mayor Apollo Feraren of San Teodoro, Oriental Mindoro, is asking the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan’s Fourth Division to reconsider its ruling that convicted him of graft, saying it “committed grave error of law” in finding him guilty.
Earlier, the anti-graft court sentenced him to 6 up to 10 years in prison with the accessory penalty of perpetual disqualification from holding any public office for allegedly allowing a private individual to use the town’s heavy equipment free of charge in 2004.
This prompted the defense to file a 26-page motion for reconsideration saying that “[o]n the basis of the foregoing propositions, it is the accused’s most humble submission that this honorable court has to acquit him for failure of the prosecution to establish his guilt beyond reasonable doubt.”
In its ruling, the court found that Feraren gave unwarranted benefit or advantage to businessman Eugene Li through gross inexcusable negligence by allowing Li to use — supposedly without payment of rentals and without the municipal council’s authorization — the town’s road grader, backhoe and dump truck for clearing operations on a site where the latter was putting up a coconut fiber factory.
It said in part that the prosecution witnesses categorically stated that Feraren authorized the lease of the equipment.
But the defense argued that the Sandiganbayan “erred in giving evidentiary weight to the testimonies of the prosecution witnesses as these are undeniably hearsay proofs and should be inadmissible as evidence.”
It said the custody of and accountability for the town’s property were upon Feraren’s subordinate.
According to the defense, Feraren had to depend on the foreman of the Municipal Engineering Office who was assigned as the then-responsible Supply and Property Officer and the then-Municipal Treasurer who, it said, was in charge of the issuance of the town’s supplies and equipment.
“Clearly then, since accused as the local chief executive was tasked with numerous duties and responsibilities, both the law and jurisprudence have allowed public officials the latitude to rely on their subordinates, as in this case, to take custody of and be accountable for both the real and personal propert[y]owned by the municipality,” it said.
Further, the defense argued that Feraren “did not act with deliberate intent, manifest partiality, evident bad faith or gross inexcusable negligence,” saying he lacked personal knowledge of the unauthorized use of the subject equipment and that he “did not authorize the use” of the same.