By Czarina Nicole Ong
It seems like the charges filed against former Caloocan City Mayor Enrico Echiverri before the Sandiganbayan are being dismissed one by one.
This, as the Sandiganbayan Second Division cleared Echiverri on February 7 of another graft charge by granting his demurrer to evidence.
The graft and falsification charges against former Budget Officer Jessica Cruz Garcia and former City Accountant Edna Villanueva Centeno were likewise dropped because their demurrer was granted.
A demurrer to evidence is a method in which the defense challenges the evidence of the prosecution because it is insufficient. If the court grants it, then the case is dropped.
Echiverri, Garcia and Centeno were accused of violating Section 3(e) of R.A. 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act when they gave undue advantage to E.V. & E. Construction (EVEC) on May 19, 2011.
They awarded the company P2,751,372.83 for the improvement of Molave St. Drainage System at Pleasantview Subdivision, Kaybiga, Brgy. 165 in Caloocan City even without prior authorization from the Sangguniang Panlungsod.
Garcia and Centeno were also accused of violating Article 171, Paragraph 4 of the Revised Penal Code for certifying in the Allotment and Obligation Slip (ALOBS) that there was an existing appropriation for the project.
However, the Supreme Court already sustained the findings of the Sandiganbayan First Division when it ruled and found that Echiverri was authorized by the SP of the city to enter into contracts for various city development projects.
The project strictly underwent the procurement process, therefore eliminating the possibility that Echiverri and his co-accused acted with gross inexcusable negligence.
Moreover, the project was completed and properly accepted by the local government, and has been serving the purpose for which it was implemented.
The anti-graft court said in its resolution that the prosecution was not able to prove the allegation of conspiracy on the part of the accused, so the charges against them must fail.
“With the prosecution having failed to discharge its burden of established accused Echiverri, Garcia and Centeno’s guilt beyond reasonable doubt, this court is constrained, as it is bounden duty when reasonable doubt persists, to grant this demurrer to evidence,” it ruled.
Echiverri has been slapped with over 50 graft charges before different divisions of the Sandiganbayan.
So far, the First Division has already dismissed three of these charges and cleared him of another due to the insufficiency of evidence against him.
All these charges are similar in nature but deals with different amounts and projects.