Zamboanga del Sur lawmaker acquitted of graft charge | Inquirer News
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Zamboanga del Sur lawmaker acquitted of graft charge

/ 03:19 PM May 24, 2019

MANILA, Philippines — The Sandiganbayan has acquitted Zamboanga del Sur 2nd District Rep. Aurora Cerilles of the graft charge filed against her when she was still provincial governor in 2005.

According to the decision of the Sandiganbayan’s Second Division last May 17, the prosecution failed to prove that Cerilles violated Section 3 of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti Graft and Corrupt Practices Act when she issued a check worth P483,480 to Baganian Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) as payment for public advertisements.

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Cerilles allegedly authorized the payment to BBC even if she supposedly knew that the radio station was operating under six radio broadcasting contracts that violated provisions of Republic Act 9184 or the Government Procurement Reform Act.

The prosecution presented audit reports made by State Auditor III Madelyn Majestrado that revealed that there were no documents to prove that the contracts with BBC were opened for public bidding.

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However, the court said that there is no evidence pointing to Cerilles’ participation in the procurement of the radio station, which will air the provincial government’s advertisements.

“A perusal of the evidence on record shows that the accused had no direct participation in the determination of the mode of procurement of the radio station for the province’s media advertisements,” the decision written by Associate Justice Michael Frederick Musngi stated.

“In fact, the prosecution’s documentary evidence does not show the accused’s participation in any of the correspondences or documents […] the letters accepting the proposal of the BBC, the radio broadcasting contracts, disbursement vouchers, and ALOBS were not signed by the accused,” it added.

The anti-graft court also did not buy into the prosecution’s claims that Cerilles ordered the provincial administrator to sign on her behalf, noting that no other evidence was presented to confirm if she authorized her subordinate.

The accused’s only participation in the offense was her signing of the check, which the prosecution also failed to prove as the genuine signature of Cerilles.

“Indeed, suspicion no matter how strong must never sway judgment. When there is reasonable doubt, the accused must be acquitted even though their innocence may not have been established,” Sandiganbayan said.

After the decision, cash bonds posted by Cerilles were ordered released and returned to her while the hold departure order issued against her was lifted. (Editor: Eden Estopace)

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TAGS: Aurora Cerilles, Graft, Philippine news updates, radio broadcasting contracts, Sandiganbayan, Zamboanga del Sur
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