• Razon pleads not guilty in armored-vehicles case

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    Former Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Avelino Razon Jr. and other high-ranking police officers pleaded not guilty Thursday to charges they rigged the bidding for the repair of light armored vehicles.

    Razon and 14 other individuals entered the plea at their arraignment before the Sandiganbayan Fourth Division, before which they are charged with 12 counts of graft, malversation and procurement law violations.

    Also pleading not guilty were police director Geary Barias, and former Philippine National Police (PNP) comptroller Eliseo dela Paz, police officers Emmanuel Ojeda, Reuel Leverne Labrado, Annalee Forro and Josefina Dumanew non-uniform personnel Alex Barrameda, Nancy Basallo, Maria Teresa Narcise and Patricia Enaje and contractors Evangeline Bais, Tyrone Ong, Pamela Pensotes and Oscar Madamba.

    Police officers Reynaldo Varilla and Charlemagne Alejandrino, although already detained, did not show up at the arraignment.

    The case involved the dubious purchase of tires for 28 V-150 vehicles and their repair, a project worth P405 million.

    The Office of the Ombudsman, who filed the case, said the defense of the accused that they relied on their subordinate during the transactions “could not be given credence” because the “subordinates, some of whom were civilians or non-uniformed personnel, would not dare mislead the officers.”

    The Ombudsman added that the officers were presumed with “experience and expertise in crime investigation and detection.”

    Razon, Barias and dela Paz, who are detained at the PNP Custodial Center, are accused of malversation, a non-bailable crime.

    In a separate pleading, Razon asked the Sandiganbayan to allow him bail, citing Supreme Court jurisprudence that the key factor in determining bail “is the probability of the appearance of the accused or of his flight to avoid punishment.”

    He pointed out that he had surrendered to the court, which indicates that he is not a flight risk.

    He said he has no plans of leaving the country because he is diabetic and his family and business interests were all in the Philippines.

    JOHN CONSTANTINE G. CORDON

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