Sandiganbayan OKs trial of ex-Caloocan mayor for graft
Despite the decision of the Commission on Audit (COA) to lift its order for former Caloocan Mayor Enrico Echiverri to return P1.06 billion in public funds previously deemed unlawfully spent, the Sandiganbayan has ruled that the criminal cases against him will still push through.
In two separate resolutions, the court’s Sixth and Seventh Divisions denied Echiverri’s motions to quash two of his 33 pending graft cases as he invoked two COA decisions dated June 15.
The COA rulings had granted Echiverri’s appeal to set aside two notices of disallowance issued on Oct. 25 and Nov. 12, 2013 for the reimbursement of funds spent on his various projects which did not have prior authorization from the Sangguniang Panlungsod.
According to COA, the procedural irregularities were cured after the city council subsequently passed the necessary resolutions ratifying and validating the already-implemented projects.
However, the Seventh Division said the COA rulings did “not lend support” to Echiverri’s argument that the allegations stated in the Ombudsman’s charges did not constitute an offense.
This meant Echiverri could invoke the COA rulings only in a full-blown trial. His arraignment for the case involving an P8.81-million drainage project that was allegedly not authorized by the Sangguniang Panlungsod had been scheduled on Jan. 26.
Meanwhile, the Sixth Division which has jurisdiction over the case of the P4.9-million multipurpose hall at Barangay Urduja sidestepped the issue of the COA ruling.
It only said that the matter, as well as others raised by Echiverri, was “better threshed out during the trial on the merits.”