Sandiganbayan approves request of ex-Napocor official to challenge evidence

By Czarina Nicole Ong-Ki

The Sandiganbayan Second Division allowed former National Power Corporation (Napocor) president and chief executive officer Rogelio Murga to challenge the prosecution’s evidence in his graft and malversation cases in relation to the reportedly anomalous release of P124.4 million worth of government funds.

Sandiganbayan (MANILA BULLETIN)
Sandiganbayan (MANILA BULLETIN)

Murga has been slapped with two counts for violating Section 3(e) of R.A. 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act and another two counts violating Article 217 paragraph 4 of the Revised Penal Code, otherwise known as malversation.

Murga and his co-accused, chairman of the Committee on Contract Expiration on Insurance Capacities Alberto Guanzon, were accused of releasing P9.55 million from Napocor’s account to Ganda Energy and Holdings Inc. and (GEHI) to a certain Ms. Kaw Swee Tuan or S.T. Kay & Company, an unauthorized entity, back in March 19, 2003.

The very next day, they released P114.89 million in favor of the same individual or company even though they “are not authorized to do considering the nature of their duties,” their charge sheets read.

On December 19, 2018, Murga filed a motion for leave to file demurrer to evidence, which is an act contesting that the prosecution’s evidence is not sufficient enough to render a guilty verdict. If the court approves it, then the case is dropped.

In his motion, Murga argued that the prosecution has failed to establish that he was the author of the crime charged and that no evidence has been presented to prove that he actually took or misappropriated public funds.

As far as the direct testimonies of the witnesses are concerned, Murga said that there was none that prove he committed the offense and that he acted in conspiracy with Guanzon.

He added that the prosecution was unsuccessful as well in proving damages caused to the government since there was no audit report to show that payments were not due. There likewise wasn’t any demand for him to return the payments made.

In its six-page ruling, the anti-graft court ruled there was merit to Murga’s motion.

“After a careful review of the records of the case and the evidence of the prosecution, the court resolves to grant the motion for leave of accused Murga 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.

It was penned by Associate Justice Michael Frederick Musngi with the concurrence of Chairperson Oscar Herrera Jr. and Associate Justice Lorifel Pahimna.

This resolution is contrary to the earlier one issued by the Second Division on January 3, denying Murga’s motion for leave to file demurrer to evidence in relation to the same case.