Sandiganbayan denies contractors’ bid to dismiss Malampaya cases

by carlosrapke1

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Sandiganbayan denies contractors’ bid to dismiss Malampaya cases

ANTI-GRAFT COURT. The Sandiganbayan in Quezon City.

Jansen Romero/Rappler

‘At this point of the trial, there being sufficient evidence to sustain the indictment for the crime charged, the accused must now bear the burden to controvert the evidence of the prosecution,’ says the Sandiganbayan 2nd Division

MANILA, Philippines – The anti-graft court Sandiganbayan on Wednesday, February 28, denied the motions of two private contractors for the outright dismissal of criminal charges stemming from the alleged misuse of the Malampaya fund in 2008.

The Sandiganbayan 2nd Division denied the motions for leave to file demurrer to evidence of Bella Tiotangco of BCT Trading and Construction and Jesus Tan of Goldrock Construction and Development Corporation.

The demurrer to evidence is a pleading filed by the defense to seek the dismissal of the charges without presenting its own evidence. If the demurrer itself is granted, the case is over.

“The accused-movants herein palpably failed to specify the grounds for their respective motions for leave to file demurrer to evidence. Perusal of the motions…only shows general assertions to the effect that the prosecution failed to prove the allegations,” the Sandiganbayan said in its decision.

The court clarified that this does not amount to a conclusion of the guilt or innocence of the accused.

“At this point of the trial, there being sufficient evidence to sustain the indictment for the crime charged, the accused must now bear the burden to controvert the evidence of the prosecution,” the court said.

Associate Justice Arthur Malabaguio penned the ruling with the concurrence of Associate Justice Oscar Herrera Jr. and Associate Justice Edgardo Caldona.

The case involves 210 public works projects in 2008 worth P1.585 billion, which were funded by royalties from the operations of the Malampaya-Camago natural gas field.  A total of 159 criminal charges were filed against former Palawan Governor Joel Reyes, provincial officials, and private contractors, including the Tiotangco and Tan, in 2017.

Prosecutors filed 75 counts of graft, 77 counts of falsification of public documents, and 7 counts of violations of Section 2 of Presidential Decree No. 1759 penalizing contractors and subcontractors who violate conditions in their contract as well as public officials who allowed such violations.

In her motion, Tiotangco asserted that there was no evidence presented to prove the graft and falsification charges against her. She said she had no personal involvement in the preparation of the documents including the Statement of Work Accomplished, which did not bear her name and signature.

Tan said in his motion that none of the evidence presented by government prosecutors tended to prove the material allegations in the information, and stressed that as a private contractor, he had no hand in the invitation for offers and bidding, which is the responsibility of the Palawan Bids and Awards Committee.

Tan said it was the government that prepared the contract and its provisions so contractors cannot be faulted for any mistake in terms or requirements or compliance with applicable laws. – Rappler.com

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