The Sandiganbayan has ruled that Muntinlupa City Mayor Rozzano Rufino “Ruffy” B. Biazon should go to trial on the graft and malversation cases filed against him in the alleged misuse of his P3 million Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) in 2007 when he was a member of the House of Representatives.
Biazon had earlier been allowed to file a demurrer to evidence in the direct bribery charge filed against him in his PDAF cases. His plea to file demurrer to evidence in graft and malversation cases had been denied by the anti-graft court. He filed a motion for reconsideration on the denial.
A demurrer to evidence can be filed only with permission of the court and it is done once the prosecution has terminated the presentation of its evidence on allegation that the prosecution’s evidence is weak to sustain a conviction. If a demurrer is filed without court’s permission and it is denied, the accused effectively waived his or her right to present his or her own evidence. If the court-permitted demurrer is granted, the accused is acquitted of the offense charged.
Biazon was charged with one count each of graft, malversation, and direct bribery for reportedly pocketing P1.9 million worth of public funds after he reportedly collaborated with businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles to support her alleged bogus foundation called the Philippine Social Development Foundation (PSDFI).
In his motion for reconsideration on the denial to file a demurrer to evidence on graft and malversation, Biazon told the anti-graft court that the choice of the PDAF project and the implementing agency was a mere “wish” on his part.
He argued that the prosecution was not able to prove how he received kickbacks from Napoles, and his acts do not constitute evident bad faith, manifest partiality, or gross inexcusable negligence.
But the anti-graft court did not agree and said that proof of receipt of such kickback is not necessary for conviction if the complained act is committed with culpa (committed with gross inexcusable negligence) rather than with dolo (committed with evident bad faith or manifest partiality).
“As regards the rest of Biazon’s arguments, the prosecution correctly observed that accused raised essentially identical issues and arguments, which have already been categorically discussed and ruled upon by the court in the assailed resolution,” the court said.
The court said that Biazon may still file his demurrer to evidence but without leave of court, which means that he will be waiving his right to present his defense evidence.
Associate Justice Zaldy V. Trespeses wrote the 11-page resolution with the concurrence of Seventh Division Chairperson Ma. Theresa Dolores C. Gomez-Estoesta and Associate Justice Georgina D. Hidalgo.
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