By Czarina Nicole Ong
The Sandiganbayan Fourth Division has acquitted San Benito, Surigao del Norte mayor Rushford Pingal Dedumo and his sister of their graft charge in relation to the reportedly anomalous hiring of a consultant in 2010.
Dedumo was accused of violating Section 3(e) of R.A. 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act for giving undue advantage or preference to his sister, Flordeliza Pingal Dedumo-Coro, when she was hired as a consultant for the municipality.
The prosecution said this was in violation of the Supreme Court decision disqualifying her from holding and accepting government employment. At the same time, Dedumo-Coro obtained a cash advance amounting to P22,760 for travel expenses to Manila, even though she was not an employee of the municipality.
In their defense, the siblings stressed that Dedumo-Coro was not really hired as an employee. She was merely a legal consultant in the meeting with PNB officials, and she was reimbursed because the trip was for an official purpose.
Since the prosecution was unable to adduce any evidence showing that Dedumo-Coro was officially hired by the municipality, the court decided that their charge should fail.
“None has been presented,” the decision read. “Neither were copies of her service record, daily time record, or the municipality’s payroll showing that accused Coro was receiving compensation, presented by prosecution.”
As for the cash advance, the court likewise gave credence to the defense that Dedumo-Coro was simply reimbursed for the trip taken on official business.
“In sum, the court finds that the prosecution failed to discharge the burden of proving the accused’s guilt beyond reasonable doubt of the crime charged,” the decision stated.
The 12-page decision was penned by Associate Justice Bayani Jacinto with the concurrence of Fourth Division chairperson Alex Quiroz and Associate Justice Reynaldo Cruz.