Sandiganbayan nixes delay in ex-governor’s estafa case

Published November 3, 2020, 3:35 PM

by Czarina Nicole Ong Ki

The Sandiganbayan Sixth Division refused to grant the motion for reconsideration of former Eastern Samar Governor Clotilde Japzon Salazar and bids and awards committee member Manuel Bantay Japzon, because doing so will only delay the proceedings in their estafa through falsification case.

Salazar and Japzon are the co-accused of former Eastern Samar Rep. Marcelino Chicano Libanan because of the reportedly anomalous purchase of soil activators back in 2004.

They initially filed a motion for leave to file demurrer to evidence, which sought the dismissal of their two charges on the basis of the weakness of the prosecution’s evidence against them.

However, this was denied by the anti-graft court on August 13. The two then filed motions for reconsideration. They argued that the evidence presented by the prosecution are just copies of originals, and the prosecution did not exert earnest efforts in retrieving them.

In its opposition, the prosecution said that the assailed documents were already submitted as evidence, so issues concerning its admissibility have already been settled.

However, the anti-graft court said that their arguments are just a “mere rehash” of their earlier arguments.

“The Court had already considered said accused’s arguments, together with the prosecution’s evidence, when it concluded that granting them leave to file demurrer will merely cause delay in the proceedings,” the resolution stated.

The four-page resolution was penned by Sixth Division Chairperson Sarah Jane Fernandez with the concurrences of Associate Justices Karl Miranda and Kevin Narce Vivero.

Salazar and Japzon have been given the choice to file their demurrer to evidence without leave of court. Should they choose to do so, they will be waiving their right to present defense evidence.

Should they choose not to do so, the hearings for the initial presentation of defense evidence has been set on November 17 and 18.

Other officials who are facing the charges are former Executive Assistant II Reynaldo Dorado, Provincial Accountant Vener Tabuena Dulfo, Project Development Officer Samson Chua Nervez, Provincial Administrator Officer-in-Charge Necitas Ponferrada, former member of the bids and awards committee Manuel Bantay Japzon, and Provincial General Services Officer Vilma Banzon Bormate.

In the charge sheet filed by Graft Investigation and Prosecution Officer II Joyrich Golangco, the local officials and private individuals were initially charged with graft and they were accused of conspiring with one another and causing undue injury to the government.

In the first charge, the local officials purchased 2,164 bags of NBEM-21 Microbial Inoculant and Soil Activator on April 15, 2004 from AKAME in the amount of P3,246,000 without the benefit of public bidding.

They resorted to direct contracting without valid justification and without conducting any canvass for a suitable substitute for NBEM-21. At the same time, AKAME Marketing International and its product, NBEM-21, are not registered with the Fertilizer and Pesticide Authority (FPA).

On April 28, they made another purchase of 2,164 bags of NBEM-21 Microbial Inoculant and Soil Activator worth P3,246,000.

Golangco said in the charge sheet that their actions violated R.A. 9184 or the Government Procurement Reform Act and other existing rules and regulations, especially when they facilitated the payment to AKAME despite the abovementioned irregularities.