Ex-UN envoy Baja cleared of graft, malversation
The Sandiganbayan Special Fourth Division has reversed its earlier decision convicting former Philippine Ambassador to the United Nations Lauro Baja Jr. of one count each of graft and malversation.
Baja’s case stemmed from his allegedly pocketing some $17,542.27 worth of public funds.
According to the case information, when an insurance company paid for the repair and damage of a broken heating system at his townhouse, Baja deposited the $17,542.27 insurance money to an account he opened, rather than to the Philippine Mission’s account.
The prosecution then alleged that Baja later withdrew the insurance money he had deposited to his newly opened account, and used the amount for a personal transaction.
Following his conviction, Baja filed a motion for reconsideration and a motion to admit attached supplemental motion, both of which were denied.
He then appealed for the court to reopen the case, which the Sandiganbayan eventually granted.
Upon reopening of the case, Baja presented additional evidence, particularly the statement of Teresita Lopez-Mendiola, former consul general of Guam. He also presented a representative from York Risk Services Group Inc., the third-party company which processed the insurance claim and released the money.
After a judicious review of the additional pieces of evidence, the Sandiganbayan decided to acquit him of both charges.
“Wherefore, premises considered, the decision dated April 13, 2018, is hereby vacated. Accordingly, a new judgment is entered, acquitting accused Lauro L. Baja for failure of the prosecution to prove his guilt beyond reasonable doubt,” the antigraft court said.
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