Prosecutors lose source of ‘vital testimony’ vs Elenita Binay
The Sandiganbayan has denied the appeal of Ombudsman prosecutors to make a former Makati government official a state witness in the P72.06-million graft case against ex-city Mayor Elenita Binay.
The ruling dealt a blow to the prosecution which considered former General Services Department head Ernesto Aspillaga a source of “vital testimony.”
In September 2014, Aspillaga testified at a Senate hearing about the city government’s supposed “pretend biddings.”
In a five-page resolution dated Oct. 15, the Sandiganbayan’s Fifth Division said Aspillaga’s testimony regarding Binay’s alleged direct involvement in the rigging of the bidding for a furniture supply contract in 1999 could not be corroborated.
Aspillaga, in his July 16, 2015 affidavit, testified that the purchase request forwarded to his office came with a handwritten note from Binay.
The note allegedly identified Office Gallery International Inc. as the intended winning supplier of the contract for furniture to be used at city hall.
But the court said the testimony “cannot be relied upon and just accepted to be the truth.” It pointed out that on May 21, 2004, Aspillaga executed a counteraffidavit denying any irregularity in the procurement process.
This was after he and Binay were charged by the Office of the Ombudsman over the alleged sham bidding.
Because Aspillaga reversed his position, the Sandiganbayan said it was “only logical” to require the prosecution to submit more evidence—a task it failed to do.
Thus, he could not be discharged as a state witness under Section 17, Rule 119 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure.
The court did not give credence to the Ombudsman’s reasoning that persons who come forward and testify against “a member of a most powerful clan in Makati City” faced dire consequences.
The resolution was penned by Associate Justice Rafael R. Lagos and concurred in by Associate Justices Maria Theresa V. Mendoza-Arcega and Maryann E. Corpus-Mañalac.
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