Sandiganbayan allows ‘Euro generals’ to contest evidence against them
MANILA, Philippines — The Sandiganbayan has allowed former police officials who travelled to Russia for a 2008 Interpol Assembly a year before retirement to challenge the prosecution’s evidence in the graft cases against them.
According to the Second Division’s resolution dated last May 2, former Philippine National Police (PNP) Comptroller Maj. Gen. Eliseo dela Paz and eight other high-ranking officials can file their demurrers to evidence within 10 days after official receipt.
Other police officials whose motions for leave of court to file demurrer to evidence were granted include:
- Former chief of directorial staff Lt. Gen. Ismael Rafanan
- Former deputy chief for operations Lt. Gen. Emmanuel Carta
- Former director for plans Lt. Gen. Romeo Ricardo
- Former director for human resources Maj. Gen. German Doria
- Former Region IX police chief Maj. Gen. Jaime Caringal
- Former Brig. Gen. Orlando Pestaño
- Former Col. Samuel Rodriguez
- Former Col. Tomas Rentoy III
In their motion, Dela Paz, Rodriguez, Pestaño, and Rentoy claim that the prosecution has not proven that they have committed graft, in relation to Section 16 of R.A. 9498 or the 2008 General Appropriations Act which prohibits uniformed personnel from going on trips a year before they retire.
Dela Paz further noted that state lawyers have “failed to show how he persuaded, induced, or influenced his co-accused to disburse” P10 million worth of confidential/intelligence funds for the retiring officials who joined the 77th Interpol General Assembly in Russia in 2008.
During this event, Dela Paz and his wife were briefly detained after being found to have been carrying undeclared foreign currency — around €105,000 or P6.9 million in cash — way over the $10,000 limit. He was later found to have been carrying an additional P2.9 million for travel expenses.
Dela Paz apologized for the mess, although he clarified that it was the PNP’s travel contingency fund that he was carrying. In 2011, the Sandiganbayan ordered the arrest of Dela Paz and his wife for violating bank regulations and for prolonging service as he was set on October 9, 2008 — the same period of his trip to Russia.
All of the accused said that the prosecution also did not substantiate allegations of receiving unwarranted benefits borne out of traveling even if they were about to retire. Rafanan also noted that he attended the Interpol event — which was covered by a travel order — in his own personal capacity.
The prosecution maintained that it has presented sufficient evidence, but the anti-graft court said that they granted the motions to test whether the evidence is enough to sustain a guilty verdict against the accused.
“The Court is inclined to grant the motions filed by the accused in order to adequately provide the defense an opportunity to test the sufficiency of the evidence presented by the prosecution and to determine if the same is enough to warrant a conviction for any or all of the accused,” the resolution penned by Associate Justice Michael Frederick Musngi said.
After the accused has filed their demurrers, the prosecution will be given 10 day to file comments. Then, the cases would be deemed submitted for resolution. /je
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