The Sandiganbayan Third Division has cleared Lucban, Quezon Vice Mayor Moises Villaseñor of graft and violating the Water Crisis Act due to the failure of the prosecution to prove his guilt beyond reasonable doubt.
Villaseñor, formerly the mayor of Lucban, had been charged with violating Section 3(e) of Republic Act No. 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act and Section 8(d) and (f) of RA No. 8041, also known as the Water Crisis Act.
In January 2008, Villaseñor implemented the Samil, Ayuti, Kalyaat, Abang (SAKA)-Rural Water and Sanitation (Ruwasa) project.
The prosecution accused him of installing two undocumented and unmetered water pipelines for his private residence in Barangay Samil, therefore enjoying unlimited and free water supply until September 11, 2014 in the amount of P1,702,138.21.
The prosecution added that Villaseñor made the connection with water lines at SAKA-Ruwasa intake box for his own use without prior authority or consent from the Apolinario dela Cruz Waterworks System.
However, the prosecution was unable to provide any concrete evidence that would prove that Villaseñor actually installed or caused the installation of the pipelines. What they provided, the court said, is nothing but “bare allegations.”
While the prosecution witnesses said that Villaseñor installed the water pipelines directly connecting to his house when he occupied the property in 2008, there was no other proof that would corroborate the allegation.
Efren Suarez, former Waterworks Supervisor Officer-in-Charge of Apolinario dela Cruz Waterworks System, testified that he discovered the pipeline leading to the cistern tank of Villaseñor.
“It should also be emphasized that even prosecution witness Suarez, who inspected and discovered the pipelines in 2014, confirmed that he never conducted any inspection prior thereto. We cannot therefore conclude that the pipelines were installed by Villaseñor in 2008 when the witnesses had no personal knowledge of their existence prior to 2014,” the Sandiganbayan said.
The anti-graft court added that it was not shown that Villaseñor knowingly used or received direct benefit of water service from 2008 until 2014 from a diverted or tampered connection.
There was likewise no evidence that the connection was without authority from Apolinario dela Cruz Waterworks System.
“It has been established that water pipelines were connected to the Hernandez intake box even prior to the SAKA-Ruwasa project. It also bears reiterating the lack of concrete proof that water pipelines were actually connected to the residence of the accused,” the court said.
The 29-page decision was written by Associate Justice Ronald Moreno and concurred in by Presiding Justice Amparo Cabotaje-Tang and Associate Justice Bernelito Fernandez.