Sandiganbayan dismisses charges vs. ex-DOF officials

Published January 16, 2021, 12:42 PM

by Czarina Nicole Ong Ki

The Sandiganbayan Fourth Division has dismissed the graft and falsification charges filed against former officials of the Department of Finance (DOF) officials after finding that the prosecution’s evidence was insufficient. 

Raul de Vera and Rosanna Diala, officers of the One Stop Shop Inter-Agency Tax Credit and Drawback Center of the DOF, are two of the co-accused of former Undersecretary Antonio Belicena.

They were accused of issuing Tax Credit Certificate No. 7711 in the amount of P7,350,444 on Domestic Capital Equipment in favor of JAM Liner Inc. on January 4, 1996. This came from the purchase of 10 units of Mitsubishi buses.

However, the prosecution said JAM Liner Inc. is not qualified or legally entitled to avail tax credit for the purchase of buses because this was not bought from a domestic manufacturer.

On April 11, they approved and issued Tax Credit Certificate No. 7708 in favor of Jam Liner Inc. once again in the amount of P4,410,266 for the purchase of six Mitsubishi buses.

De Vera and Diala filed a demurrer to evidence, which is a motion for the dismissal of charges on the ground of insufficiency of evidence. Should the court grant it, the case is automatically dismissed. But if not, the trial would ensue.

They argued that the documentary evidence offered by the prosecution was not authenticated by the persons who executed them, and there is no formal offer of evidence. As a result, De Vera and Diala said the evidence adduced by the prosecution are pure hearsay and should be excluded and rejected by the court.

For its part, the anti-graft court ruled that the prosecution’s evidence indeed fell short of sustaining indictment of graft and falsification.

“Without definitive proof that there was a community of conscious and criminal design on the part of the accused, the Court finds discomfort in concluding that accused conspired altogether in committing the offenses charged against them,” the resolution read.

“Mere act of reviewing the subject tax credit applications, and subsequently recommending their approval can hardly be considered as a demonstration of conspiracy among the accused,” it added.

The demurrer to evidence of De Vera and Diala filed on September 28, 2020 was granted by the court, and the charges for violation of Section 3(j) of R.A. 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act and Article 171 paragraph 4 of the Revised Penal Code or Falsification of Public Documents was ordered dismissed.

The 30-page resolution was written by Associate Justice Lorifel Pahimna with the concurrence of Fourth Division Chairperson Alex Quiroz and Associate Justice Bayani Jacinto.