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Sandigan junks Echiverri's bid to dismiss P1.9-M graft rap

The cases stemmed from the alleged anomalous awarding of a contract worth P1.962-million to Golden 3T Construction for a drainage improvement project. File
MANILA, Philippines — The Sandiganbayan Third Division has affirmed the validity of a graft case against former Caloocan City Mayor Enrico Echiverri over an alleged anomalous P1.9-million drainage project in 2011.
 
In a 10-page resolution promulgated on April 20, the Third Division found no merit on the respective motions of Echiverri and his two co-accused praying for the dismissal of the cases.
 
“After a judicious review of the arguments raised by the accused-movants vis a vis the pertinent laws and jurisprudence thereon, the Court finds no cogent reason to reverse its earlier finding that probable cause exists for purpose of issuing a warrant of arrest against the herein accused-movants,” the resolution penned by Sandiganbayan Presiding Justice and Third Division chairperson Amparo Cabotaje-Tang read.
 
The court, however, clarified that since Echiverri and his co-accused, former city accountant Edna Centeno and former city budget officer Jesusa Garcia, have already posted their respective bail bonds, there is no longer a need to issue another arrest order against them.
 
The Third Division in its March 10 ruling, has already determined that there were sufficient grounds to proceed with the trial of the cases. Nonetheless, Echiverri, Centeno and Garcia, later that month, still proceeded with the filing of their respective motions calling for the cases' dismissal.
 
Echiverri, Centeno and Garcia are facing one count each of violation of Section 3 (e) of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
 
While Centeno and Garcia are also facing one count each of falsification of public documents as defined under Article 171 of the Revised Penal Code.
 
All the cases stemmed from the alleged anomalous awarding of a contract worth P1.962-million to Golden 3T Construction for a drainage improvement project in Barangay179 Amparo Subdivision in 2011.
 
The Office of the Ombudsman who filed the cases on March 7, said the contract was awarded to Golden 3T without the required authorization and budget allocation from the Sangguniang Panglungsod (SP) or city council as provided under the Local Government Code.
 
The ombudsman said Centeno and Garcia falsified an Allotment and Obligation Slip (ALOBS) to make it appear that the city council allocated a budget for the project.
 
The Third Division said the respondents' claim that the awarding of the contract was authorized by SP through a city resolution is a “matter of defense best ventilated and passed upon during the trial of the cases.”
 
The Third Division said it is also premature to rule on the respondents' claim that the ombudsman failed to show a conspiracy among them.
 
“To be sure, the absence or presence of any conspiracy among the accused is also evidentiary in nature and is a matter of defense, the truth of which can be best passed upon after a full-blown trial on the merits,” the court said.
 
Echiverri is facing six more counts of graft in other divisions of the Sandiganbayan over alleged anomalous drainage projects in several villages of Caloocan City from 2011 to 2013 during his term as mayor.
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