Sandiganbayan clears Echiverri of another graft case
MANILA, Philippines — The Sandiganbayan has dismissed a graft case filed against former Caloocan City mayor Enrico Echiverri for allegedly giving advantage to a construction company who built a barangay hall in the city.
The anti-graft court’s Sixth Division granted the demurrers to evidence filed by Echiverri, City Accountant Edna Centeno and City Budget Officer Jesusa Garcia in its 30-page decision dated April 2, citing the failure of prosecution to prove the second and third elements of graft.
Echiverri, Centeno and Garcia were accused of violating Section 3(e) of R.A. 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act after the Caloocan City government awarded the P1.98 million contract for the construction of the barangay hall of Barangay 154 to Caana Construction Corporation, without seeking the approval of the city council.
The Sandiganbayan cited a Supreme Court decision where the High Court agreed with the anti-graft court that Echiverri was authorized by the Sangguniang Panglungsod (city council), through Ordinance No. 0464, “to enter into various city development projects.”
“Accused Echiverri, therefore, did not have to secure from the Sanggunian a separate or additional authorization before he entered into the contract with Caana,” the decision penned by Sixth Division chair Associate Justice Sarah Jane Fernandez said.
“Manifest partiality, evident bad faith or gross inexcusable negligence on the part of accused Echiverri is further negated by the fact that he entered into subject contract with Caana only after the conduct of public bidding, and after the Bids and Awards Committee recommended that the said contract be awarded to Caana, the lowest bidder,” they added.
Aside from this, the Sandiganbayan said Echiverri, Centeno and Garcia neither gave unwarranted benefits to Caana, nor did they disadvantaged the government because Caana was the lowest bidder.
“The award of the contract for the subject project to Caana was not an unwarranted benefit, advantage, or presence in its favor. Even assuming, for the sake of the argument, that accused Echiverri had no prior authorization from the Sanggunian, the award of the contract to Caana was not unjustified, or done without adequate reason,” the Court explained.
“Similarly, the 1st initial payment to Caana, in the amount of P1,998,639.81 cannot be considered as an unwarranted benefit, advantage, or preference because the City Government of Caloocan was contractually bound to pay Caana for the work done in the subject project,” they Sandigan added.
The decision marks the sixth graft case against Echiverri to be dismissed by the Sandiganbayan, out of the 57 graft cases filed by the Office of the Ombudsman. Just recently, the same division also granted Echiverri’s demurrer on a case involving a road and drainage improvement project worth P16.4 million.
Meanwhile, there are four other cases withdrawn by state prosecutors due to insufficiency of evidence, but are still subject to the approval by the Sandiganbayan. /muf
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