By Czarina Nicole Ong
The Sandiganbayan Second Division has acquitted two officials of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and a private individual of their graft charge due to the prosecution’s failure to prove their guilt beyond reasonable doubt.
Maj. Jose L. Barao Jr. and Capt. Henry G. Valeroso, members of the AFP Technical and Inspection Team and Acceptance Committee, as well as Victorino Floro, private citizen, president of Floro International Corporation, were earlier slapped with a violation of Section 3(e) of Republic Act 3019, also known as the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
They were charged alongside the late Col. Artemio C. Cacal, commanding officer of the AFP Research and Development Center, due to the reportedly anomalous purchase of 75 units of cal. 9mm MK9 SMG worth P1,500,000 back on Nov. 10, 1997. They made the purchase without the required Report of Test and Report of Evaluation before acceptance and payment.
Because of his death, Cacal’s criminal and civil liabilities are extinguished. Barao, Valeroso and Floro, on the other hand, all pleaded not guilty during their arraignment.
The prosecution stressed that undue injury was caused to the government since the weapons purchased turned out to be defective. It added that Floro was given undue advantage when the payment was made even without the Report of Test and Evaluation.
However, the court ruled that prosecution still failed to expound on the requirements to establish undue injury. The court explained that the items were delivered to the AFP, and 10 units were even provided by Floro International Corporation, at no extra cost to the AFO, to “replace” the ones earlier received by the AFP that remain unaccounted for.
“There is therefore no injury, in the context of compensable actual damages, to support the conviction of the accused on this ground,” the 28-page decision read. “Then, too, the averment in the Information imputing unwarranted benefit to Floro…agonizes from lack of substantiation.”
While Floro International Corporation received payment for the firearms, the court ruled that it is not enough to prove that unwarranted benefit was given. “Clearly, there was a failure in showing that Floro International Corporation, whether through its president or not, had a hand in compelling payment even without the requisite testing or due acceptance of the firearms that were the subject of purchase,” the decision further read.
The decision was penned by Second Division chairperson Oscar Herrera Jr. and concurred by Associate Justices Michael Frederick Musngi and Lorifel Pahimna.