By Czarina Nicole Ong
Former Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila (PLM) President Benjamin Tayabas has been cleared by the Sandiganbayan Seventh Division of his two graft charges due to the failure of the prosecution to prove his guilt beyond reasonable doubt.
He was earlier charged for violating Section 3(e) and (h) of R.A. 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act alongside former PLM Dean of the College of Physical Education Priscilla Minas, former PLM Faculty Member Enrique Conlu, and Alejandro Dagdag Jr., former President of the National College of Physical Education (NCPE).
They were accused of giving undue advantage to NCPE, a non-stock and non-profit foundation when they allowed the NCPE to use the facilities and manpower of PLM for P20,000 per year or a total of P60,000 from 2005 to 2007 even though its Certificate of Registration had been revoked.
The NCPE was also allowed to collect tuition fees from students without the approval of the PLM Board of Regents.
But even though the prosecution managed to prove that the NCPE had no Commission on Higher Education (CHED) permit, the anti-graft court said in its ruling that the NCPE’s use of PLM facilities was only supported by testimonial evidence and nothing more.
It was Rogelio Angco who testified about the NCPE’s use of PLM facilities.
But his testimony, said the court, “is merely reduced to gratuitous statements absent documentary proof on the original Renewal of Memorandum of Agreement, or its precursor, the original memorandum of agreement itself, to provide documentary proof why NCPE was housed at PLM in the first place.”
Without documentary evidence, the court said the prosecution was not able to prove how the accused acted with manifest partiality or how their actions caused undue injury to the government.
The Sandiganbayan also hit the prosecution for failing to provide any documentary proof that the NCPE’s status as a non-stock and non-profit corporation whose Certificate of Registration has been revoked. The same goes for the NCPE’s alleged collection of tuition fees.
“The bottomline, therefore, is that the prosecution evidence did not tilt towards a finding of guilt beyond reasonable doubt,” the court ruled. “When the prosecution failed to discharge its burden, the accused need not even offer evidence in his or her behalf.”
Tayabas’ three co-accused were likewise cleared of their charges. Minas filed a demurrer to evidence, which the court granted so her case has been dismissed.
The 34-page decision was penned by Chairperson Ma. Theresa Dolores Gomez-Estoesta with the concurrence of Associate Justices Zaldy Trespeses and Georgina Hidalgo.