Sandiganbayan allows ex-councilor to check signature in evidence in graft case

Published March 12, 2020, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin

By Czarina Nicole Ong Ki

The Sandiganbayan Third Division has granted the motion for production and inspection of document filed by former Patnongon Councilor Erika C. Orcasitas for her graft charge in connection with the reportedly anomalous P9.9 million transfer of ownership of a 40-ton rice mill from 2007 to 2008.

Sandiganbayan (MANILA BULLETIN)

Orcasitas is one of the co-accused in the case for the violation of Section 3(e) of Republic Act (RA) No. 3019, also known as the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, which was slapped on former Antique Rep. Exequiel B. Javier.

Javier and Orcasitas were charged alongside former Patnongon Mayor Henry A. Mondejar, former Vice Mayor Johnny Flores Bacongallo, councilors Gemma B. Cepeda, Thomas V. Bacaoco, Al Brian T. Crespo, former councilors Felix Gregorio G. Barrientos, Rene Philip G. Cayetano, Teopisto C. Estaris, Jr., and Greater Antique Development (GRAND) Cooperative Chairman Efren G. Escavilla.

Sometime in January 2007 to 2008, these officials reportedly conspired with Escavilla and caused the transfer of ownership, operation, and maintenance of the rice mill worth P9.9 million which was intended for the municipality of Patnongon and funded by the priority development assistance fund (PDAF) of Javier.

The transfer was reportedly made in favor solely of GRAND Coop. without any financial consideration, research, study, or justification of the necessity of entering into such partnership.

In her motion, Orcasitas prayed that the court issue an order directing the secretary of the municipal council to “produce, allow the inspection and photocopying of the original of Resolution No. 007-2008 dated January 22, 2008” during the scheduled hearing of the case.

Orcasitas claimed that her purported signature in the resolution is just a “rubberstamp facsimile,” and that she opposed the admission of the certified true copy during the prosecution’s formal offer of evidence on the ground that her signature on the document had not been established.

After due consideration, the anti-graft court decided to grant her motion. “A good cause exists for the granting the motion of Orcasitas,” the court ruled. “The prosecution impleaded her on account of her acquiescence in the subject resolution, through her purported signature appearing therein. Orcasitas, however, maintained that her signature in the evidence offered was a mere rubberstamp facsimile.”

The court said Orcasitas’ request cannot be denied because doing so would deny her fundamental right to due process. “Simply put, an accused should be given the fullest opportunity to adduced proofs for his or her defense.”

The four-page decision was written by Associate Justice Ronald Moreno with the concurrences of Presiding Justice Amparo Cabotaje-Tang and Associate Justice Bernelito Fernandez.