FORMER Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Avelino Razon Jr. and other high-ranking officers pleaded “not guilty” to corruption charges filed against them over the repair of V-150 light armored vehicles.
In the arraignment at the Sandiganbayan Fourth Division, Razon and 14 other individuals entered their “not guilty” pleas to 12 counts of graft, malversation and procurement law violations.
Assisted by lawyer Nympha Mandagan, Razon entered his plea on Thursday morning before the courtroom of Associate Justices Alex Quiroz, Maria Cristina Cornejo and Oscar Herrera amid tight security provided by the police force he once led.
Alongside Razon, director Geary Barias, and former comptroller Eliseo dela Paz also entered their not guilty pleas in the complex crime of rigged bidding for the repair of 28 armored personnel carriers worth P405 million.
Police officers Emmanuel Ojeda, Reuel Leverne Labrado, Annalee Forro and Josefina Dumanew also pleaded not guilty.
Non-uniformed personnel Alex Barrameda, Nancy Basallo, Maria Teresa Narcise and Patricia Enaje and contractors Evangeline Bais, Tyrone Ong, Pamela Pensotes and Oscar Madamba similarly pleaded not guilty before the justices.
Police officers Reynaldo Varilla and Charlemagne Alejandrino, although already detained, did not show up during the arraignment due to pending motions before the anti-graft court.
The case stemmed from the dubious purchase of tires for the V-150 light armored vehicles and their repair, as well as the release of funds for transportation and delivery of the products.
According to the Office of the Ombudsman, the defense of the high-ranking officers that they relied on their subordinate during the transactions “could not be given credence” as these “subordinates, some of whom were civilians or non-uniformed personnel, would not dare mislead the officers.”
The Ombudsman added that the well-placed officers are presumed to possess “experience and expertise in crime investigation and detection.”
At present, Razon, Barias and dela Paz, among others of the detained individuals, are incarcerated at the PNP Custodial Center for their non-bailable crime of malversation.
Not flight risk
In a separate pleading, Razon told the Sandiganbayan to allow him to have a bail hearing for provisional liberty.
Citing Supreme Court jurisprudence, the detained police chief said that “the principal factor” in weighing the fixing of bail on an accused “is the probability of the appearance of the accused or of his flight to avoid punishment.”
He pointed out that he actually surrendered before the court and recommended conditions should he be granted bail.
Razon said that he would, among others, surrender his passport, inform the court of his local travel outside Luzon, consent to PNP escort and disclose the addresses of all his children and siblings in any he will travel.
He said that he has no plans in leaving the country as he is diabetic and his family and business interests are all here in the Philippines.
“Razon has participated in the proceedings from the start. He has never attempted to flee the country and [this is]to assure the Sandiganbayan that he will not evade prosecution,” Mandagan said.