Sandiganbayan junks graft raps vs 25 Coast Guard officials
MANILA, Philippines – The Sandiganbayan has approved the withdrawal of graft charges against 25 Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) officials involved in the purchase of P68 million worth of office supplies in 2014.
In a resolution from the Fourth Division dated last September 6, the charges against former PCG commandant retired Vice Adm. Rodolfo Isorena and other high ranking officials were dropped after state prosecutors acknowledged that the evidence presented is not sufficient to convict the accused.
Aside from Isorena, charges against the following officials were likewise dropped:
Commander John Badong Esplana
Captain Joeven Libreja Fabul
Philippine Coast Guard Accounting Head Rogelio Ferrer Caguioa
Commander Wilfred Burgos
Rear Admiral Cecil Chen
Commander Ferdinand Velasco
Commander George Villareal Ursabia, Jr.
Commander William Ocular Arquero
Commander Jude Thaddeus Mandin Besinga
Commander Roben Navarro De Guzman
Commander Enrico Efren Acasio Evangelista, Jr.
Captain Angelito Gil
Ensign Mark Franklin Aldea Lim II
Captain Angel Lobaton IV
Captain Ramon Lopez
Lieutenant Mark Larsen Mariano
Commander William Masinloc Melad
Commander Rommel Supangan
Commander Ivan Endique Roldan
Commander Allen Dalangin
Captain Christopher Villacorte
Commander Ferdinand Tallera Panganiban
Commodore Aaron Tensuan Reconquista
Commander Joselito Balayanto Quintas
According to the complaints from the Office of the Ombudsman in 2017, the purchases did not go through public bidding. Some of the officials including Isorena have been dismissed by former Ombudsman Conchita Morales for committing grave dishonesty.
Sandiganbayan based their decision on a previous Supreme Court ruling, which stressed that it is “futile” to pursue criminal cases based on the same facts and merits of a dismissed administrative case.
The Court of Appeals previously said the accused cannot be liable for procuring without public bidding as the purchases were made when tensions at the West Philippine Sea were escalating, which was considered a “major security issue”.
“Applying the foregoing jurisprudence to the present criminal cases which were founded on the same set of facts and evidence as in the dismissed administrative cases and considering the Court’s finding of absence of sufficient evidence on record […] the Court resolves to grant the withdrawal of the Informations and Amended Informations prayed for by the prosecution,” the anti-graft court said.
With the decision, their respective cash bonds were order released while hold departure orders against them, for this case, are now lifted. /gsg
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