ECHIVERRI SCORES FIRST ACQUITTAL AFTER COA ‘CRIPPLES’ OMBUDSMAN
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.
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.