Sandiganbayan junks ex-Malabon lawmaker’s bid to contest evidence
MANILA, Philippines – The Sandiganbayan has denied former Malabon Rep. Federico Sandoval II’s motion for leave of court to file a demurrer to evidence in a graft and technical malversation case against him.
According to the Second Division’s resolution last Monday, the separate motions of Sandoval and other accused individuals from the Department of Agriculture (DA) were denied as the pieces of evidence presented by the prosecution appear to be sufficient to convict them, unless countered by their lawyers later on.
Sandoval was accused of conspiring with DA Regional Field Unit-IV (RFU-IV) officials in procuring a P3 million worth Tornado Brush Chipper/Shredder by means of direct contracting or without going through public bidding.
“After a meticulous study, the Court finds, and so holds, that the evidence adduced by the prosecution, testimonial and documentary […] appear to be prima facie sufficient for the conviction of the accused of the offense charged, unless successfully rebutted by defense evidence,” the resolution written by division chair and Associate Justice Oscar Herrera Jr. said.
Other accused in the case are RFU-IV Regional Executive Director Dennis Araullo, and DA’s RFU-IV employees Juvylee Obice, Raymundo Braganza, Lourdes Imperial, Abelardo Bragas, Felix Ramos, Ofelia Montilla, Gregorio Sangalang, and Balagtas Torres.
All of them were also facing technical malversation raps as the budget used to buy the chipper was sourced from P728 million Fertilizer Fund — which should have been intended to fund the Ginintuang Masaganang Ani program of the DA.
Had the court granted the motion of Sandoval and the others accused, they would have been allowed to file demurrers and contest evidence presented by the prosecution. If the court deems their arguments to be valid, the case would be outrightly dismissed for insufficiency of evidence.
Sandiganbayan considered the witnesses and documents presented by the state lawyers — a combination of officials from the Commission on Audit, Department of Budget and Management, Department of Agriculture, and files concerning the supposed transaction.
In a 2011 report, Sandoval is specified as one of the several former lawmakers charged with graft for their alleged role in the fertilizer fund scam where money intended for farmers’ fertilizer went instead to candidates allied with the Arroyo administration in 2004. /jpv
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