Anti-graft court sees Benjamin Abalos Sr. conviction for graft
Elizabeth Marcelo (The Philippine Star) - October 17, 2018 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The Sandiganbayan has maintained that government prosecutors of the Office of the Ombudsman have presented strong evidence against former Commission on Elections (Comelec) chairman Benjamin Abalos Sr. which, if unrebutted, would warrant his conviction for graft.

In a resolution promulgated on Oct. 8, the court’s Sixth Division affirmed its Sept. 11 ruling denying Abalos’ motion for leave to file a demurrer to evidence, which would have allowed him to seek the dismissal of his case based solely on the supposed “weak” evidence of the prosecution.

The Sixth Division said Abalos failed to raise any new argument in his motion for reconsideration that would warrant the reversal of its Sept. 11 ruling.

“The said motion for reconsideration is a mere rehash of accused Abalos’ arguments in his motion for leave to file demurrer to evidence, which were passed upon by the court in its assailed resolution,” the Sixth Division’s new ruling read.

“Nonetheless, this court, after reviewing the motion for leave as well as the prosecution’s testimonial and documentary evidence, confirms that, if unrebutted, the same is sufficient to convict accused Abalos of violation of Section 3(e), Republic Act No. 3019 (Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act),” it added. 

Filed by the ombudsman in October 2016, the graft case against Abalos stemmed from his alleged anomalous purchase of two units of Toyota Revo VX 200 totaling P1.7 million in June 2003 during his term as Comelec chairman.

The ombudsman said Abalos gave “unwarranted benefit, advantage and preference” to Toyota Pasong Tamo Inc. by purchasing from it the two vehicles without holding any public bidding but rather through unauthorized small-value procurement also referred to as “shopping.”

The Sixth Division said since it has already found the prosecution’s evidence to be strong enough to warrant conviction, “allowing accused Abalos to file his demurrer to evidence will only delay the proceedings.”

The filing of a demurrer to evidence is a legal strategy usually employed by an accused to seek the dismissal of the case halfway through trial without having the need to present his defense.

Under the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure, an accused must first seek the permission of the court before filing a demurrer so as not to lose his chance to present his counter evidence if the demurrer gets denied.

The Sixth Division said Abalos may still file his demurrer to evidence without permission from the court “but subject to the legal consequence... that is, he shall waive his right to present evidence and is submitting this case for judgment on the basis of the evidence adduced by the prosecution.”

The Sixth Division has given Abalos five days upon receipt of the resolution to manifest if he will still file a demurrer to evidence. The court has tentatively set Abalos’ presentation of his counter-evidence on Nov. 22 and 29.

Abalos earlier maintained that the Comelec’s purchase of the vehicles had undergone proper procedure, including the canvassing of the most advantageous price as well as consultation with the head of the requesting party, the Comelec’s Finance Services Division.

  • Latest
  • Trending
Are you sure you want to log out?

Philstar.com is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

or sign in with