By Czarina Nicole Ong Ki
The Sandiganbayan Third Division has denied the motion for partial reconsideration filed by Land Registration Authority (LRA) Examiner Giovanni Purugganan, which sought to reverse his conviction for direct bribery.
Purugganan was found guilty by the Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 88 in Quezon City of direct bribery and violation of Section 3(b) of R.A. 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
This was for his act of receiving the sum of P50,000 from Albert Avecilla on August 23, 2011 in exchange for the release of the latter’s order from the LRA to the Register of Deeds of La Union regarding the titling of the property of his uncle Benjamin Ramos.
When he elevated the case to the Sandiganbayan, the anti-graft court junked his graft conviction but affirmed that he was indeed guilty beyond reasonable doubt of his direct bribery charge.
Purugganan insisted in his motion that the prosecution failed to establish the presence of acceptance, which was a material and essential element of indirect and direct bribery.
He said he only touched the envelope but not the money, and he merely peered into the envelope to see what was inside. Purugganan added that he never took possession of the envelope, and that the complainant’s testimony was self-serving and ill-motivated.
But after a careful assessment of the arguments raised by Purugganan, the anti-graft court found it bereft of merit.
While Purugganan said he only looked at the contents of the envelope and did not touch the money, the anti-graft court said he still did not push back the envelope to the complainant.
“In fact, the accused-appellant admitted that he ‘foresaw’ money inside the envelope simply because of his earlier understanding with the private complainant. Obviously, his act of peering inside the envelope was merely to confirm the presence of money therein,” the resolution stated.
Purugganan likewise argued that had he wanted to bribe the complainant, he would not have chosen a public place like a Jollibee restaurant. However, the court said there was no opinion that states that direct bribery can never be committed in a public place.
“Admittedly, Jollibee restaurant is a public place but the same does not necessarily mean that the accused-appellant could not have chosen such a place to receive the money he demanded from the private complainant,” the court said. “On the contrary, such a public and busy place can be just a perfect place to consummate direct bribery or camouflage the crime.”
The 15-page resolution was written by Presiding Justice Amparo Cabotaje-Tang with the concurrence of Associate Justices Bernelito Fernandez and Ronald Moreno.