Graft case vs ex-Rizal town execs dismissed

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The Sandiganbayan has acquitted two former local government officials in Rodriguez, Rizal from charges of failing to pay the salary of job order employees in 2009.

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In a 17-page decision, the anti-graft court on Thursday said the prosecution failed to prove that payroll documents reached the offices of then acting Mayor Jonas Cruz and former Municipal Treasurer Nemencia Sta. Maria.

“Wherefore, in the light of all the foregoing, this Court finds that the prosecution had failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt the guilt of accused Jonas J. Cruz and Nemencia S.P. Sta. Maria, and consequently acquits them of the offense under Section 3, paragraph (e) of R.A. No. 3019,” it ruled.

Republic Act (R.A.) No. 3019 is the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

“There being no basis for a finding of civil liability, none is adjudged against the accused,” the court held.

The court also ordered that the cash bond posted by Cruz and Sta. Maria for their provisional liberty be returned and the hold departure order issued against them lifted.

The case stemmed from a complaint before the Office of the Ombudsman by several job order employees after they supposedly failed to receive their salaries totaling P24,973 from September 11 to October 10 that year.

The Ombudsman filed the case against Cruz and Sta. Maria in 2011, alleging that the duo caused undue injury by “failing or refusing to process the payment of the salaries owing to private complainants as job order employees.”

This is even after these employees submitted “their required documents.”

But based on the testimony of both prosecution and defense witnesses, the Sandiganbayan found out that that the complainants’ daily time records (DTR) were processed only up to the Accounting Department.

This fails to establish the direct accountability of both Cruz and Sta. Maria.

“Thus, absent any proof that the subject documents had reached the offices of the accused for their appropriate actions, this Court cannot even dwell on the matter whether the accused acted with manifest partiality, evident bad faith, or gross inexcusable negligence in processing the concerned documents,” the court said.

The ruling was prepared by Associate Justice Samuel Martires and concurred in by Presiding Justice Amparo Cabotaje-Tang and Associate Justice Alex Quiroz.

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