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State lawyers appeal acquittal of South Cotabato solon

/ 03:01 PM April 18, 2017

State prosecutors appealed the acquittal from graft of South Cotabato Rep. Pedro Acharon Jr. in connection with the issuance of a travel order without the approval of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) when he was General Santos city mayor.

In its motion for reconsideration, the Office of the Special Prosecutor under the Ombudsman said the Sandiganbayan Seventh Division misappreciated the facts of the case when it acquitted Acharon and two members of the Sanggunian Panlungsod (SP) Jose Orlando Acharon (Rep. Acharon’s son) and Minda Atendido because they were not “private parties” who were given undue benefit, a condition in the commission of graft.

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READ: South Cotabato solon acquitted of graft

The court said the officials traveled abroad for the Tambayoyong Festival in Los Angeles from June 9-16, 2006 even without a DILG authorization but on their official capacities, not as private individuals who were given undue benefit.

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“It could not be perceived, therefore, that SP Members Acharon and Atendido were granted the foreign travel in their capacity as ‘private parties’ who were given unwarranted benefits, advantage or preference in the discharge of the functions of the city mayor,” the court then ruled.

The prosecution said the court’s decision was based on a misappreciation of facts.

The prosecution noted that the Sandiganbayan in its ruling did not consider the accused as private parties, “based on the tenor of the travel order that they were granted foreign travel on the basis of their position as members of the Sangguniang Panlungsod.”

Since the only issue that resulted in the acquittal of the officials is the failure of the prosecution to prove they acted in their private capacities, the prosecution pleaded the court to take a second look.

The prosecution said the officials were not even granted travel authority by the DILG “so there is no basis to consider accused as traveling in their official capacity.”

“Under these circumstances, the accused could not have duly proceeded with the travel in their official capacity and should necessarily be aptly considered as ‘private parties,'” the prosecution said.

The court also ruled that Acharon had no authority to supplant the disapproved travel request with his own travel order, the prosecution noted.

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“Therefore, the prosecution presented proof beyond reasonable doubt of all the elements charged in the information,” the prosecution said.

“In this light, the prosecution seeks the reconsideration of the decision subject of this motion on the ground that, with due respect, the Honorable Court has grossly misappreciated and misinterpreted the evidence on record, resulting in a grave miscarriage of justice,” it added.

In its decision, while the court said it was “highly discernible” there was manifest partiality especially because Acharon granted a travel order to his son, the prosecution still failed to prove Acharon caused injury or damage to government by allowing the Sanggunian members to travel without the DILG’s authority.

The court said “no undue injury caused to the government was proven” especially because there was no audit report showing the Sanggunian members charged their travel expenses to the appropriated P2.5 million for the conduct of the Tambayoyong Festival in Los Angeles.

Before their acquittal, Acharon and the two others were accused of violating Section 3(e) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act for allegedly acting with manifest partiality when Acharon, then General Santos city mayor, issued a travel order to Sanggunian members to join the festival knowing full well that then DILG Secretary Ronaldo Puno disapproved the same request.

Acharon faces a related case this time involving his alleged failure to liquidate the P2.5 million spent for the Tambayoyong Festival.

The budget was intended for a dinner for 37 participants, but only 17 showed up. Acharon allegedly failed to liquidate the P2.5 million fund, causing undue injury to government. IDL

RELATED STORIES

Sandiganbayan suspends solon over P2.5-M unliquidated funds 

Prosecutors ask court to suspend South Cotabato solon for graft

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TAGS: Jose Orlando Acharon, Minda Atendido, Pedro Acharon Jr., Sandiganbayan, Supreme Court, travel ban, travel order
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