Sandiganbayan acquits ex-DPWH secretary

Published September 24, 2019, 11:38 AM

by Francine Ciasico

By Czarina Nicole Ong-Ki

Former Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) secretary Manuel Bonoan has been acquitted by the Sandiganbayan First Division for graft for his alleged involvement in a reportedly anomalous P15-million flood control project in Manila, which was awarded to Toyo-Ebara Joint Venture.

Sandiganbayan (MANILA BULLETIN)
Sandiganbayan (MANILA BULLETIN)

Bonoan was accused of violating Section 3(e) of R.A. 3019 together with other DPWH officials – Nonito Famarin Fano, Macariola Subardiaga, Bartolo and Reynaldo Aranillo Dayahan, and Toyo-Ebara Joint Venture Representative Yoshinori Ikeda.

Bonoan, in his capacity as then DPWH undersecretary, together with his co-accused, caused the partial payment of price adjustment in the amount of P15,925,652.33 in connection with the Metro Manila Flood Control Project II, Package A, to Ikeda.

Ikeda posted his demurrer to evidence on July 18, followed by Bonoan on July 19 with a supplemental demurrer to evidence on July 22. Fano and Bartolo posted their demurrer to evidence on July 18, and the prosecution filed their joint comment and opposition on August 5.

A demurrer to evidence is an objection made by the defense challenging the prosecution’s evidence as insufficient in point of law to render a guilty verdict.

Ikeda said in his demurrer that the case should be dismissed since the prosecution failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt the material allegations in the Information. He added that the price adjustment was not paid to him, since the Claims for Payment was not signed by him but by the Deputy Project Manager of Toyo-Ebra Joint Venture.

At the same time, Ikeda said he was not responsible for the non-submission of the documents required by the Commission on Audit (COA), which became the basis of the case.

Meanwhile, Bonoan said that his act of signing the documents was part of his ministerial function as DPWH undersecretary for operations, and it was not intended to give undue advantage to Ikeda. He signed the disbursement voucher because all the necessary supporting documents were there.

Bonoan likewise said that he did not cause undue injury to the government, since the project was completed and accepted.

Fano and Bartolo, on the other hand, reiterated the same grounds mentioned by Ikeda and Bonoan.

Luckily for the accused, the anti-graft court gave weight to their demurrers, especially since the COA did not flag any irregularity in the transaction.

“What remains peculiar in this case, was the lack of any finding by the COA of any irregularity in the payment of contract unit price adjustment (CUPA),” the resolution stated.

The audit team merely entertained vague suspicions as to the project’s validity. But in the end, the Sandiganbayan said in its ruling that it failed to point out any irregularity with regards to the payment made.

“The Court cannot simply take a leap and conclude that the payment of CUPA was illegal because COA was not furnished additional documents for audit,” the resolution read.

The 18-page resolution was written by Associate Justice Geraldine Faith Econg with the concurrence of Chairperson Efren de la Cruz and Associate Justice Edgardo Caldona.