Graft raps vs DBM execs dropped
MANILA, Philippines–The Sandiganbayan has dismissed a number of corruption charges against Department of Budget and Management (DBM) officials and employees after finding no probable cause to have them stand trial.
In a resolution promulgated on Aug. 28, the antigraft court’s First Division junked a total of eight graft charges against Budget Undersecretary Mario Relampagos and his subordinates Rosario Salamida Nuñez, Lalaine Narag Paule and Marilou Dialino Bare.
The Sandiganbayan also ordered prosecutors to submit additional evidence to prove that the four government officers could be tried for another eight counts of graft.
The charges were in connection with their alleged involvement in the P10-billion pork barrel scam. In these cases, the four were accused of facilitating the release of the Priority Development Assistance Fund for supposed projects of their coaccused, Sen. Ramon Revilla Jr.
In its eight-page resolution, the court said it found no probable cause to try Relampagos, Nuñez, Paule and Bare for the first eight charges after finding that the special allotment release orders (Saros) cited in the dismissed charges were not signed by Relampagos.
“A second look at the records of this case shows that only five of the 12 Saros mentioned in the Ombudsman’s Joint Resolution dated March 31 were signed by accused Relampagos …. All the remaining seven Saros were signed by then DBM Secretary Rolando Andaya,” the resolution, penned by Associate Justice Rafael Lagos, read.
“Consequently, all the information that rely on these seven Saros signed by Andaya as a basis to indict Relampagos et al. should be dismissed,” it said.
The court asked prosecutors handling the case to submit more evidence linking the four to the eight other graft charges, saying their indictment critically hinged on a statement by whistle-blower Benhur Luy in which he named Paule, Bare and Nuñez as the contacts of alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles in the office of Relampagos, who he claimed had released the Saros for the scam.
“This statement from Luy only shows that, per his knowledge, the Saros were prepared in the office of accused Relampagos and that they followed up with accused Nuñez, Bare and Paule the issuance of the Saros because Luy knew that the Saros were processed in Relampagos’ office,” the resolution read.
“This bare statement from Luy, however, cannot be the basis to conclude that Relampagos et al. facilitated with ‘undue haste’ the processing of a Saro. Nothing in the records establishes the normal time frame for the processing of a Saro…. Without these data on time standards, no one can arrive at a conclusion that ‘undue haste’ accompanied the processing of a Saro,” it said.
Furthermore, the court was not convinced that the accused had received “kickbacks” as claimed in the charges.
“On the contrary, Benhur Luy’s statement before the Senate hearings establishes that he did not know whether anybody at the DBM received anything. Thus, the prosecution needs to submit additional evidence on these matters,” the resolution read.
The court’s order for prosecutors to submit additional evidence in the eight other cases has deferred the arraignment of the four to Sept. 4.
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