Sandiganbayan denies ex-mayor’s move to present witness residing abroad

Published March 12, 2021, 3:34 PM

by Czarina Nicole Ong Ki

The Sandiganbayan has denied anew the plea of an accused to present in his graft and malversation cases the testimony of a witness who is now residing abroad and whose whereabouts were not relayed to the court during pre-trial.

Denied twice was the motion of former Mayor Dioscaesar Suero of Cabugao, Ilocos Sur to present the testimony of a certain Renato/Charlie S. Siruno through written interrogatories before the Philippine Consulate in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Written interrogatories consist of questions to elicit material and relevant facts for the taking of depositions or written testimonies.

Suero was charged with graft for conspiring with Nesto Ibarra and giving preference to the latter’s company, N.A. Ibarra Construction, in the construction of the farm-to-market road project for Cabugao town in 2010.

As town mayor, Suero reportedly ordered the release of P516,715.14 to Ibarra even if the construction was still incomplete based on the audit by the Commission on Audit (COA). His act reportedly “resulted in overpayment…, in violation of pertinent laws, government auditing and accounting rules and regulations.”

On the malversation charge, Suero and Ibarra were accused together with Jose Suboc, municipal engineer, and Florante Jara, municipal planning and development coordinator.

They allegedly conspired in falsifying the Certificate of Work Accomplished, Certificate of Services Rendered, and Certificate of Project Completion in connection with the road project.

As a result, the charges stated that a total of P926,650.66 was disbursed as payment for the project that was not 100 percent complete.

The Sandiganbayan had denied Suero’s first motion with a ruling that the accused former mayor failed to support with affidavits his claim regarding the whereabouts of Siruno.

In this case, the Sandiganbayan said that Suero claimed that Siruno, former barangay chairman of Cuantacla, Cabugao, is currently residing in Honolulu, Hawaii.

The court said that Seuro’s lawyer even wrote to the Office of the Consular Affairs of the Department of Foreign Affairs and requested for confirmation that Siruno is residing in Hawaii since April 2016. The letter was dated Jan. 5, 2021.

In denying Suero’s second motion, the anti-graft court said the lawyer’s letter only proves that the accused failed to timely account for his supposed witness before trial.

“The denial by the Court on the ground that accused-movants have not shown proof as to Siruno’s whereabouts is not an imposition of requirements not found in Rules, as accused Suero claims. It is an enforcement of basic precepts in procedure,”, the court said.

It said that Suero should have moved for Siruno’s conditional examination before the trial began, especially considering that Siruno is a material witness whose testimony will materially affect the outcome of the case.

Presiding Justice Amparo M. Cabotaje Tang wrote the resolution that was concurred in by Associate Justices Bernelito R. Fernandez and Ronald B. Moreno.