Ex-Cebu City councilor cleared of graft charge

Published July 2, 2022, 3:00 PM

by Czarina Nicole Ong Ki

Sandiganbayan

Former Cebu City Councilor Rodolfo V. Cabrera has been acquitted by the Sandiganbayan of his graft charge in the P26.6 million contract for a condominium project in 1997.

Cabrera was one of the co-accused in the graft case filed against former Cebu City Mayor Alvin B. Garcia. The charge against Garcia had been dismissed in 2021 for violation of his right to speedy disposition of cases.

The case against former Councilor Laurito M. Malinao, City Treasurer Eustaquio B. Cesa, and private individual Pura Cimafranca has been ordered archived pending their arrest.

Cabrera underwent trial. In its decision, the Sandiganbayan ruled that the prosecution failed to prove Cabrera’s guilt beyond reasonable doubt.

The condominium project was awarded to Octa Builders, Inc. on Jan. 23, 1997.

The prosecution alleged that the contract was awarded to Octa without public bidding and without prior approval of the Cebu City Development Council. It also alleged that the contract amount was 49.54 percent more than the cost estimate of P17.8 million done by the Commission on Audit (COA).

At the same time, the prosecution claimed that Octa Builders was not qualified to undertake the project because it lacked the requisite capital, experience, and license, and failed to comply with other mandatory legal requirements.

The prosecution also attempted to pin down Cabrera on his signature in the Deed of Conveyance when he was acting mayor.

However, the court said that Cabrera’s signature alone does not support the allegation that he extended unwarranted benefits to Octa Builders.

“All of the evidence offered by the prosecution to try to prove manifest partiality or evident bad faith are mere public documents showing that the Cebu City Local government undertook the condominium project,” the court said.

It pointed out that the prosecution failed to offer any proof how the government suffered damage from Octa Builders since the firm was able to turn over the completed project. There was likewise no proof of any notice of disallowance from the COA, it said.

The 16-page decision was written by Associate Justice Michael Frederick L. Musngi with the concurrence of Second Division Chairperson Oscar C. Herrera Jr. and Associate Justice Arthur O. Malabaguio.

 
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