Sandiganbayan nixes NPO execs’ motion to dismiss graft raps

MANILA The Sandiganbayan has denied the motion of a director of the National Printing Office (NPO) and four others to have the 2013 graft case against them dismissed.

In its four-page ruling dated May 21, 2018, the anti-graft court junked the motion for leave of court to file demurrer to evidence filed by the NPO director Felipe Evardone; Marietta de Guzman, Evelyn Perlado, Miguel Arcadio and Vicente Lago Jr., all members of the agency's Bids and Awards Committee (BAC).

The Court hereby denies the (i) Motion for Leave of Court to File Demurrer to Evidence filed by accused De Guzman, Perlado and Arcadio; (ii) Motion for Leave to File Demurrer to Evidence filed by accused Evardone; and, (iii) Motion for Leave to File Demurrer to Evidence filed by accused Lago, the anti-graft court's Sixth Division said.

After a careful study of the documentary and testimonial evidence submitted by the prosecution, the Court finds that, if unrebutted, the same is sufficient to convict the accused, the Sandiganbayan said.

This is without prejudice to the filing by the accused of their Demurrer to Evidence without prior leave of court, but subject to the legal consequence provided under Section 23, Rule 119 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure, that is, they shall waive their right to present evidence and are submitting this case for judgment on the basis of the evidence adduced by the prosecution, it added.

In 2013, the Office of the Ombudsman has filed a graft case against the accused for canceling in June 2006 the printing contract with Best Forms, Inc. for the receipts and forms of the Land Transportation Office (LTO) "without legal basis."

The NPO officials held a rebidding which allegedly "manipulated to ultimately award printing contracts" to Ready Forms, Inc. instead of "completing the post-qualification process on the second bidder with lowest calculated bid" under the Government Procurement Act.

The accused argued that the third element of the offense, which is the alleged unwarranted benefit, was not proven by the prosecution.

They said that the prosecution failed to establish by proof beyond reasonable doubt the material allegations stated in the graft charges.

There is gross insufficiency of evidence to sustain or support the private complainants' allegations,' they said in their motion.

Based on the prosecution's own evidence ... it appears that there were sufficient legal bases to cancel the Notice of Award to Best Forms, Inc. and to disqualify Best Forms, Inc. from participating in the bidding, for the following compelling reasons: e) Accused Lago is over 70 years old and undergoing medication for various ailments; hence he cannot stand the rigors of trial, they added.

On the other hand, the prosecution argued that sufficient evidence were adduced to prove the presence of the elements of evident bad faith, manifest partiality, and/or gross inexcusable negligence, as well as the element of causing undue injury and/or giving unwarranted benefit and preference.

The Sandiganbayan set the next hearing of the graft case against the accused on May 30, 2018. (PNA)

Source: Philippine News Agency

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