Co-accused in graft case vs 2 Ilocos Sur ex-mayors allowed to turn state witness | Inquirer News

Co-accused in graft case vs 2 Ilocos Sur ex-mayors allowed to turn state witness

/ 05:00 AM August 25, 2023

The graft charges filed by former Ilocos Sur Gov. Luis “Chavit” Singson against two former mayors of Narvacan town received a boost after the Sandiganbayan allowed one of the co-accused to become state witness.

In a resolution on August 18, the antigraft court’s Second Division granted the prosecution’s motion to discharge Constante Cabitac, then the president of the Federation of Farmers of Narvacan Ilocos Sur.

Cabitac can provide “direct evidence” against those responsible for the alleged misappropriation of P81 million intended for the federation, on top of the testimonies already given by 11 other witnesses, the prosecutors said.


Named as respondents in the case were former National Tobacco Administration chief Edgardo Zaragoza, his son and former Narvacan mayor Zuriel Zaragoza, municipal accountant Melody Cadacio and education research assistant Mario Cabinte.


Singson complaint

Acting on a complaint filed by Singson, the Office of the Ombudsman indicted the Zaragozas for graft last year for allegedly defrauding the town’s farmers to the tune of P81 million, money that was sourced from tobacco excise funds.

In dropping Cabitac from the list of the accused, the Sandiganbayan agreed with the prosecutors’ position that his testimony would be “indispensable and absolutely necessary” to complete the evidence for the case.

The 11 other witnesses included executives from the Land Bank of the Philippines, three state auditors, municipal officials of Narvacan and Singson, who served as mayor of Narvacan from 2019 to 2022.

“Cabitac’s testimony shows first-hand knowledge and direct participation in the misappropriation of funds, although according to him, it was upon the instruction of accused Zuriel Zaragoza, who was the mayor at that time,” the court said in the resolution.

“At the risk of sounding repetitive, if only to emphasize this point, at this stage of the proceedings, no other person can supply direct evidence that would solidify the charges against accused Zaragozas, Cadacio and Cabinte but accused Cabitac,” it added.

The court also explained that discharging one of the accused or “conspirators” in order to get a detailed account of their “inner workings” would be the “most important part of the puzzle” that would link the accused to the crimes being alleged.


Associate Justice Arthur Malabaguio wrote the resolution, with Associate Justices Edgardo Cardona and Oscar Herrera Jr., the division chair, concurring.


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TAGS: graft case, Ilocos Sur, Regions

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