Ex-La Union lawmaker seeks to challenge prosecution’s evidence as weak

By Czarina Nicole Ong-Ki

Former La Union 2nd District Representative Thomas De Lara Dumpit Jr. has asked permission from the Sandiganbayan First Division to file a demurrer to evidence in his graft and malversation case in relation to the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) scam back in 2008.

Sandiganbayan (MANILA BULLETIN)
Sandiganbayan (MANILA BULLETIN)

A demurrer to evidence is a motion to dismiss a case on the ground of insufficiency of evidence. If the court grants it, then the case is dismissed. But if Dumpit files his demurrer without leave of court, and it is eventually denied, then that means he has waived his right to present his evidence.

In his motion, Dumpit argued that the prosecution failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt that he acted in conspiracy with his other co-accused. What the prosecution presented, according to him, is nothing but “mere conjecture and speculation.”

“First and foremost, accused Dumpit… does not exercise control over the PDAF. The said fund being under the control of the implementing agency, which in this case is the National Agribusiness Corporation (NABCOR),” the motion read.

He likewise requested that the presentation of defense evidence previously scheduled on May 21, 2019 and all other scheduled hearings be cancelled so as not to render his motion “moot and academic.”

Dumpit was earlier slapped with two counts of Section 3(e) of R.A. 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act and another two counts of Article 217, in relation with Articles 48 and 171(e) of the Revised Penal Code, also known as Malversation through Falsification of Public Documents.

This was in relation to the reportedly anomalous use of his P14.55-million PDAF, which was supposed to fund livelihood projects for farmers in his district.

The former lawmaker was accused together with NABCOR officials Alan Javellana, Rhodora Mendoza, Romulo Relevo, Ma. Julie Villaralvo-Johnson, and Kasangga sa Magandang Bukas Foundation Inc. (KMBFI) President Marilou Antonio.

Dumpit chose and endorsed KMBFI, a non-government organization (NGO), as project partner for his PDAF-funded projects “in disregard of the appropriation law and its implementing rules, without the benefit of public bidding,” his charge sheet stated. The NGO was also unqualified to undertake the projects.

Dumpit and NABCOR’s Javellana then entered into a memorandum of agreement with KMBFI and released the amounts of P13,095,000 and P1,455,000 on two separate occasions “without having carefully examined and verified the accreditation and qualifications of KMBFI.”

As a result, Dumpit and the accused public officials caused undue injury to the government since the livelihood projects turned out to be non-existent.

Instead of using the PDAF-drawn public funds to finance the livelihood projects, the accused made falsified reports and documents just so the money can be released and the KMBFI unduly profited from the entire fictitious scheme.