SC gives go-signal to pursue graft case vs supplier of Cebu lamppostBy Tetch Torres-Tupas
MANILA, Philippines -The Supreme Court gave the go-signal to pursue graft case against the supplier of the alleged overpriced lamppost for the 12th Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit in 2007.
In an 18-page decision, the high court’s third division through Associate Justice Jose Catral Mendoza said the Sandiganbayan did not abuse its discretion in pursuing the case against Isabelo Braza, President and Chairman of the Board of FABMIK Construction and Equipment Supply Company Inc. (FABMIK).
Braza, along with other Cebu officials, in 2008 have been slapped with a case for violation of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act for the award of the contracts for the supply and installation of street lighting facilities, testing and commissioning of L.E.D. bulbs, traffic signal lantern and other traffic control devices along the roads in Cebu worth over P164,524,401.25, the amount of which was in excess of the Ombudsman and Commission on Audit computation of over P 60-million.
At the Sandiganbayan, Braza sought a reinvestigation of his case. The Sandiganbayan granted his motion as the court noted that the allegation of overpricing was based on falsified document and was enough to merit a reinvestigation. The Ombudsman conducted a reinvestigation that affirmed its earlier findings against Braza. It then submitted an amended information which was accepted by the anti-graft court.
However, Braza refused to be arraigned on the modified case saying it is tantamount to double jeopardy.
But in dismissing his petition, the high court said “Braza cannot plausibly rely on the principle of double jeopardy to avoid arraignment under the second information because the offense charged therein is different and not included in the offense charged under the first information.”
“It appears that Braza has obviously lost sight, if he is not altogether aware…the doctrine of double jeopardy is a revered constitutional safeguard against exposing the accused from the risk of being prosecuted twice for the same offense and not a different one,” the high court added.
The Court added that if Braza is questioning the evidence against him, it would better be addressed in a full-blown trial on the merits.
“It is not proper therefore, to resolve the issue right at the outset without the benefit of a full-blown trial. This issue requires a fuller ventilation and examination,” the high court said.