Ombudsman withdraws 4 of 53 graft raps vs Enrico Echiverri
Elizabeth Marcelo (The Philippine Star) - December 27, 2018 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Citing insufficiency of evidence, the Office of the Ombudsman has withdrawn four of the remaining 53 graft cases filed against former Caloocan City mayor Enrico Echiverri before the Sandiganbayan in connection with the allegedly anomalous infrastructure projects during his term.

In a motion filed recently before the anti-graft court’s Fourth Division, the ombudsman’s Office of the Special Prosecutor moved for the withdrawal of the cases for “lack of evidence.” 

The prosecution, however, acknowledged that since the cases have been filed in court, the Sandiganbayan has “the bounden duty to make an independent assessment” on whether the withdrawal of the cases is in order.

Moved to be withdrawn were four counts of violation of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, which the ombudsman filed against Echiverri, former city accountant Edna Centeno and former city budget officer Jesusa Garcia early this year.

The prosecution also sought the withdrawal of another four counts of falsification of public documents against Centeno and Garcia.

The ombudsman cited a review conducted by a team of special prosecutors, who came up with a memorandum dated Nov. 5 recommending the withdrawal of the cases for lack of evidence.

The prosecution said the memorandum was approved by Ombudsman Samuel Martires on Nov. 27.

The graft cases against Echiverri, Garcia and Centeno stemmed from the alleged anomalous awarding of contracts and release of payments worth P16.57 million to four construction firms from 2012 to 2013.

The subjects of the contracts were the construction and installation of street lights along Capt. De Rico and Champaca streets in Camarin, Barangay 174. (P1.378 million); improvement of road and drainage system in Bagong Silang, Barangay 176 (P4.941 million); improvement of drainage system along Baesa Road to Rivera Interior street, Barangay 160 (P8.812 million), and improvement of alleys in Barangay 155, Bagong Barrio (P1.441 million).

Based on the charge sheets, the ombudsman said the contracts were awarded without the approval of the city council.

The ombudsman said Echiverri approved the disbursement vouchers for the release of payments even if there was no budget appropriation ordinance passed by the city council.

Centeno and Garcia supposedly falsified four Allotment and Obligation Slips to make it appear that the city council allocated funds for the projects.

Last week, the First Division dismissed a graft case against Echiverri, Centeno and Garcia in connection with a pathwalk and drainage improvement project worth P1.778 million.

This is the fourth graft complaint dismissed by the Sandiganbayan out of the 57 cases filed against Echiverri.

The ombudsman has not won a single case against the former mayor so far.

All the cases stemmed from the alleged anomalous awarding of contracts from 2011 to 2013 for various projects such as drainage improvements, road concreting, construction of multi-purpose halls and installation of lighting systems.

Echiverri maintained that the projects were aboveboard as can be proven by the resolutions passed by the city council and the city’s Bids and Awards Committee. 

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