By Czarina Nicole Ong Ki
The Sandiganbayan Third Division has convicted three former officials from the Department of Finance (DOF) of their graft charge involving the irregular grant of tax incentive to a bus company back in 1998.
Deputy Executive Director Uldarico Andutan Jr., Officer-in-Charge of the Net Local Content Raul De Vera, and Domestic Capital Division and Senior Tax Specialist Rosanna Diala were found guilty of their graft charge and have been sentenced to suffer an indeterminate penalty of imprisonment of six years and one month as minimum to a maximum of 10 years.
Aside from imprisonment, they are perpetually disqualified from holding public office as well.
Meanwhile, the three were acquitted of their estafa through falsification charge due to the failure of the prosecution to prove their guilt beyond reasonable doubt.
The three former officials are the co-accused of Undersecretary Antonio Belicena, who remains at large. Because of this, the case against him has been archived and the bail bond he posted for his provisional liberty has been forfeited in favor of the government.
The charges against Jam Transit Inc. representative Joseph Cabotaje have been dismissed in light of his death.
On March 11, 1998, the accused officials gave unwarranted benefits and advantage to Jam Transit by causing the approval of the application for tax credit certificate purportedly for its eight buses, which did not really exist. As a result of the actions, Tax Credit Certificate No. 9461 in the amount of P6,064,669 was given in favor to Jam Transit.
In its ruling, the anti-graft court noted that the Claimant Information Sheet (CIS) submitted by Jam Transit showed blanks that were not filled in by the applicant. Basing on that alone, the court said that there existed “red flags to alert the evaluator and the reviewing officer on possible irregularities” in the CIS.
At the same time, the Attestation Clause in the CIS was not even notarized. The anti-graft court said that the application should not have been given due course at the onset because of the irregularities.
The defense, for its part, maintained that the documents presented should not have been accorded by the court since they were mere photocopies. But the Sandiganbayan was not of the same mind.
“Clearly, some of the originals of the documents were no longer available during trial. However, the prosecution was able to adequately explain the circumstances of the loss in accordance with the foregoing requirements. Thus, this Court admitted and gave due consideration to the copies,” the decision explained.
However, there was no evidence that successfully proved that the accused falsified the documents attached to the Application for tax credit of Jam Transit. The testimonies of the witnesses confirmed that the falsification of documents was already completed prior to the filing of the application.
“Absent any proof that they falsified the documents themselves, they cannot now be held liable for the crime charged,” the court ruled.
The 33-page decision was written by Associate Justice Bernelito Fernandez with the concurrence of Presiding Justice Amparo Cabotaje-Tang and Associate Justice Sarah Jane Fernandez.