Philippine Daily Inquirer - - METRO - By Vince F. Nonato @VinceNona­toINQ

Barely nine months af­ter his July 3 in­dict­ment for an P8.08-mil­lion graft case, for­mer Caloocan City Mayor En­rico Echiverri has won his first-ever ac­quit­tal.

In a de­ci­sion dated April 16, the Sandi­gan­bayan’s First Divi­sion granted the de­mur­rer filed by Echiverri on the case in­volv­ing a road and drainage sys­tem project awarded to P.B. Grey Con­struc­tion in Oc­to­ber 2011.

Coac­cused also ac­quit­ted

City ac­coun­tant Edna Cen­teno and city bud­get of­fi­cer Je­susa Gar­cia were also ac­quit­ted of graft and fal­si­fi­ca­tion charges.

Since the pros­e­cu­tion’s ev­i­dence was too weak to stand on its own, the court said there was no more need to re­quire Echiverri and his coac­cused to present ev­i­dence in their de­fense.

The three of­fi­cials, how­ever, still face 43 other pend­ing sets of cases in con­nec­tion with P227.57 mil­lion worth of in­fras­truc­ture projects.

The projects had been ques- tioned by the Om­buds­man for al­legedly lack­ing prior au­tho­riza­tion and ap­pro­pri­a­tion by the Caloocan City coun­cil.

Pros­e­cu­tors be­gan fil­ing mul­ti­ple re­lated charges on March 7, 2017 with the most re­cent case filed on April 6 this year.

The Com­mis­sion on Au­dit, how­ever, lifted on June 15, 2017 the dis­al­lowance of a to­tal of P1.06 bil­lion worth of ir­reg­u­larly-spent funds on the grounds that the city coun­cil’s be­lated rat­i­fi­ca­tion of the projects cured the ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties.

Per­sua­sive ef­fect

In ac­quit­ting Echiverri of the P8.08-mil­lion graft case, the Sandi­gan­bayan cited the COA de­ci­sion, say­ing it “bears con­sid­er­able per­sua­sive ef­fect in the dis­po­si­tion of these cases.”

“Ef­fec­tively, the in­stant charges have be­come crip­pled sans any sup­port to with­stand the heavy bur­den of the con­sti­tu­tional re­quire­ment that a pros­e­cu­tion should be based on ev­i­dence be­yond rea­son­able doubt in or­der to con­vict,” read the de­ci­sion penned by As­so­ciate Jus­tice Edgardo M. Cal­dona.

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