Sandiganbayan allows ex-Philcomsat officials to file demurrer

By Czarina Nicole Ong

The Sandiganbayan Second Division has allowed Enrique Locsin and Manuel Andal, both nominees to the Philippine Communication Satellite Corp. (Philcomsat) and Philippine Overseas Telecommunications Corp. (POTC), to challenge the prosecution's evidence in their graft charge.

They were earlier slapped with a violation of Section 3(e) of R.A. 3019, also known as the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, for reportedly receiving "grossly exorbitant salaries" from 2003 to 2005.

They received P300,000 per year, which was way beyond the P180,000 annual salary allowed by Memorandum Circular No. 40. They also had travel allowances of P550,000 and unexplained reimbursements for transportation expenses, consultancy fees, and more amounting to P15 million for Locsin and P11 million for Andal.

In their motion for leave to file demurrer to evidence, both accused said that the prosecution failed to prove their guilt beyond reasonable doubt for the crimes charged.

Locsin said the prosecution failed to establish that he was a public official or employee, and all the documentary or testimonial evidence were mere "hearsay."

Meanwhile, Andal said there was no undue injury caused to the government because the prosecution failed to prove how he received an annual salary of P300,000, or had travel allowance of P550,000, and reimbursements worth P11 million during the three-year period.

After a careful review of the records of the case and the evidence of the prosecution, the anti-graft court resolved to grant the motions of Locsin and Andal.

Their motion for leave to file demurrer was granted "in order to adequately provide the defense an opportunity to test the sufficiency of the evidence presented by the prosecution and to determine if the same is enough to warrant a conviction," the resolution read.

Filing a demurrer to evidence is an act contesting that the evidence offered in the case is insufficient. If the court grants it, then the case would be dropped.

The seven-page resolution was penned by Associate Justice Michael Frederick Musngi with the concurrence of Chairperson Oscar Herrera Jr. and Associate Justice Lorifel Pahimna.