Ombudsman withdraws 4 graft cases vs Echiverri
The Ombudsman has withdrawn four of the 53 remaining graft cases it filed against former Caloocan Mayor Enrico Echiverri over dozens of infrastructure projects that allegedly lacked the city council’s prior approval.
Prosecutors have already asked for permission from the Sandiganbayan Fourth Division where the cases are pending.
This was after Ombudsman Samuel Martires on Nov. 27 approved the prosecutors’ Nov. 5 recommendation for the withdrawal of the charges involving four projects worth P16.47 million “for insufficiency of evidence.”
The finding was made months after the charges were filed in the Sandiganbayan in February, May and September this year.
The withdrawal was signed by Assistant Special Prosecutors Agnes B. Autencio-Daquis, Adonis A. Laure and Maria Theresa M. Tan.
The cases were in connection with a P1.27-million streetlight project, a P4.94-million pathwalk project, an P8.81-million drainage system project and a P1.44-million street improvement project Echiverri had awarded to P.B. Grey Construction, Red Scorpion Construction and Supply, Roadmax Construction Corp., and MRRM Trading and Construction.
The projects were implemented from 2012 to 2013 using loan proceeds from the Land Bank of the Philippines.
Although the council passed a budget ordinance in 2010, it lacked the specific details of projects to be funded.
Prosecutors began indicting Echiverri, as well as city accountant Edna Centeno and city budget officer Jesusa Garcia, in March 2017 for the said irregularity, resulting in the filing of 57 counts of graft so far.
However, the Commission on Audit’s (COA) June 2017 decision to lift its order for Echiverri to return the P1.06 billion funding spent on the unauthorized projects may have weakened the Ombudsman’s cases.
The COA cited the March 2012 resolution passed by the city council ratifying the unauthorized contracts and curing the defects.
Of the 57 cases filed against Echiverri, four of these were tossed out by the Sandiganbayan’s First Division this year.
A total of 53 cases remain, but should the prosecution’s pending motion in the Fourth Division be approved, only 49 cases will be left.
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