The anti-graft court Sandiganbayan’s Sixth Division entered a not-guilty plea on behalf of Chief Supt. Raul Petrasanta, former Philippine National Police (PNP) Firearms and Explosives Office (FEO) head, and three others after they refused to enter any plea during their arraignment on a graft charge filed against them.
The case stemmed from an allegedly anomalous courier deal entered into by the PNP with Werfast Documentation Agency Inc. (Werfast) in 2011.
Petrasanta said he “will not enter a plea” as advised by his lawyer, after the charge was read to them during the arraignment on Thursday.
Eduardo Acierto, Nelson Bautista and Ricardo Zapata Jr., who were also former officials of the PNP FEO, also entered no pleas.
This prompted the court to enter a not-guilty plea on their behalf, as provided under the rules.
In May, the Office of the Ombudsman filed the case at the Sandiganbayan against former PNP Director General Alan Purisima and 16 others including retired PNP official Gil Meneses as well as former PNP FEO officials Petrasanta, Acierto, Bautista, Zapata, Allan Parreño, Melchor Reyes, Ford Tuazon, Napoleon Estilles, Lenbell Fabia and Sonia Calixto.
Mario Juan, Salud Bautista, Enrique Valerio, Lorna Perena and Juliana Pasia—who were identified in the charge sheet as then-Werfast incorporators—were also charged.
The Sandiganbayan’s Sixth Division later found probable cause to try the case.
In June, Purisima, Meneses, Parreño, Reyes, Tuazon and Estilles pleaded not guilty during their arraignment while the other respondents were not arraigned because of pending incidents.
Juan, Salud Bautista, Valerio, Perena and Pasia were arraigned earlier this month and entered pleas of not guilty.
The court has set the pre-trial of the case for October 20.
According to the Ombudsman, the respondents, who are all out on bail, allegedly gave Werfast unwarranted benefits, advantage or preference.
The respondents allegedly entered into a Memorandum of Agreement with the firm for courier services for firearms license applications, approved and implemented as mandatory the delivery by courier of firearms license cards and granted Werfast accreditation as the PNP’s courier service provider for all such applications despite the firm’s supposed failure to comply with government regulations on courier services.
Such regulations included prior registration with the Securities and Exchange Commission, authority from the Department of Transportation and Communications to operate a delivery service and accreditation by the Department of Science and Technology.
The PNP terminated the deal in 2014.
The Court of Appeals earlier ordered the reinstatement of Petrasanta and Senior Supt. Acierto whom the Ombudsman ordered dismissed along with several others last year over the courier deal.