The Sandiganbayan Fifth Division is proceeding with the graft trial of former Presiding Judge Crisologo S. Bitas of the Regional Trial Court Branch 7 of Tacloban City after his demurrer to evidence was denied.
Bitas is facing two counts of violating Section 3(e) of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act for allowing two individuals with a qualified trafficking charge to post bail even though there was no hearing conducted.
On Feb. 2, 2011, he was accused of showing manifest partiality to Danilo Miralles and Lynna Brito, who are both accused of qualified trafficking under RA 9208 or the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003.
Bitas allowed them to post bail even though there was no application or petition for bail.
He filed his demurrer to evidence on Sept. 3, which challenged the sufficiency of the prosecution’s evidence to render a guilty verdict. Bitas argued that the prosecution failed in proving how he acted with manifest partiality, evident bad faith, or gross inexcusable negligence in allowing Miralles and Brito to post bail.
Bitas insisted that there was a hearing conducted on the case of Miralles and Brito, and seeing that the evidence of guilt against them is weak, he granted them bail.
“The filing of an application for bail is a procedural requirement,” the defense argument said. “Herein accused cannot be criminally faulted for relaxing procedure considering that another hearing for essentially the same evidence and witnesses to determine evidence of guilt would be a superfluity when herein accused already has a gauge due to the hearing he already conducted.”
In its opposition, the prosecution argued that it was able to prove Bitas’ association with Miralles. He was a classmate of his sister, and throughout his handling of the case, he was accused of showing partiality.
“His partiality towards Miralles and Brito was so patent and clear that there can be no other conclusion that can be drawn for the way he handled the case other than his inclination or predisposition to favor Miralles and Brito,” the prosecution said.
In this instance, the anti-graft court sided with the prosecution. “This Court finds that the prosecution presented sufficient evidence both documentary and testimonial that support the charges against herein accused,” the Sandiganbayan said in a 15-page resolution which was written by Associate Justice Ma. Theresa Mendoza-Arcega with the concurrence of Fifth Division chairperson Rafael Lagos and Associate Justice Maryann Corpus-Mañalac.