Ex-Caloocan Mayor Echiverri acquitted in graft case over drainage project
MANILA, Philippines – Former Caloocan City Mayor Enrico Echiverri has scored another legal victory at the Sandiganbayan after the Sixth Division decided to drop graft charges against him regarding a drainage improvement project.
In the Sixth Division’s decision last July 17, Echiverri and former city accountant Edna Centeno and then budget officer Jesusa Garcia were acquitted of falsification and graft charges after the court granted their demurrers to evidence.
A court grants a defendant’s demurrer to evidence if it deems the prosecution’s evidence to be weak or insufficient.
According to Sandiganbayan, prosecutors failed to prove that the three acted with manifest partiality, bad faith, or gross inexcusable negligence when the Caloocan government entered into a contract with Red Scorpion Construction and Supply (RSCS) without first seeking the approval of the Sangguniang Panglungsod.
Echiverri was originally facing more than 50 graft and falsification cases before different divisions at the Sandiganbayan. However, since 2018, Echiverri’s camp has obtained a string of victories, much largely due to a city ordinance and a civil code that allows him to enter into deals even without the city council’s nod.
“Without ruling on the validity of the subject contract, the same not being an issue, this Court must point out that the lack of prior authorization from the Sanggunian, by itself, cannot render the contract entered into by the local executive null and void, but only unenforceable under Article 1403(1) of the Civil Code,” Associate Justice Sarah Jane Fernandez who penned the document said.
“Manifest partiality, evident bad faith, or gross inexcusable negligence are negated by the fact that accused Echiverri awarded the subject contract to RSCS only the conduct of a public bidding, and after the Bids and Awards Committee recommended that said contract be awarded to RSCS, the lowest bidder,” she added.
Caloocan’s local government unit (LGU) has paid P860,450 out of the P1.607 million allocated for the rehabilitation of drainage along M. Hizon Street in Barangay 64.
Sandiganbayan also said that they also found no malice in the LGU’s decision to pay RSCS since the project was 60.5 percent complete when payment was made. Aside from that, the court also noted that the project was not disadvantageous to the government.
“The award of the contract for the subject project to RSCS was not an unwarranted benefit, advantage, or preference in its favor. Even assuming that there was no prior authorization from the Sanggunian, accused Echiverri’s act of awarding the subject contract to RSCS was not unjustified or done without adequate reason,” the decision read.
“From the prosecution’s evidence, it appears that a public bidding was conducted, and that RSCS offered the lowest bid. Absent proof of any irregularity, the contract would necessarily have been awarded to RSCS,” it added.
With the decision, hold departure orders against the accused of these specific cases have been lifted, while their bail bonds were ordered released./ac
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