By Czarina Nicole Ong-Ki
The Sandiganbayan Second Division has acquitted Enrique Locsin and Manuel Andal, both nominees to the Philippine Communication Satellite Corp. (Philcomsat) and Philippine Overseas Telecommunications Corp. (POTC) of their graft charges in relation to the “grossly exorbitant salaries” they reportedly received from 2003 to 2005.
The prosecution accused them of receiving P300,000 per year, which is way beyond the P180,000 annual salary allowed by Memorandum Circular No. 40. They also had annual 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 is a public official or employee, and all the documentary or testimonial evidence are mere “hearsay.”
Meanwhile, Andal said there is no undue injury caused to the government because the prosecution failed to prove how he received an annual salary of P300,000, travel allowance of P550,000, and reimbursements worth P11 million during the three-year period.
In its 48-page ruling, the anti-graft court reviewed the prosecution’s evidence, which are the financial documents purportedly reflecting the financial transactions of PHC from 2003 to 2005, from which they based the amounts received by the accused.
These included the schedule of expenses, analysis of advances to affiliates, cash disbursement books, general vouchers, and several others. However, the witnesses who identified the documents admitted that they do not have personal knowledge of its entries. They did not have any participation as well in the documents which became the basis of the amounts alleged to have been received by Locsin and Andal.
Because of this, the anti-graft court ruled that the evidence fell short of the quantum of evidence required to convict both Locsin and Andal.
“Considering that the evidence relied upon by the prosecution is insufficient to prove the accused’s evident bad faith and the undue injury sustained, the Court finds that the prosecution failed to establish beyond reasonable doubt the guilt of the accused,” the decision read.
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.
The 48-page decision was penned by Associate Justice Michael Frederick Musngi with the concurrence of Chairperson Oscar Herrera Jr. and Associate Justice Lorifel Pahimna.