Davao del Sur vice mayor cleared of graft
Elizabeth Marcelo (The Philippine Star) - January 13, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The Sandiganbayan has reversed its decision convicting Vice Mayor Edwin Reyes of Bansalan, Davao del Sur of graft for allowing the sale of firecrackers when he was mayor.

In a resolution promulgated on Jan. 4, the anti-graft court’s special seventh division cited a review of the records of the case which showed that the prosecution panel of the Office of the Ombudsman failed to prove that Reyes acted with manifest partiality, evident bad faith or gross inexcusable negligence.

Rita Domingo, former municipal permits and licensing officer, and Solomon de Castilla, former town police chief, were also cleared of the charges.

Last August, the accusedwere found guilty of violating Section 3 (e) of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices and sentenced to up to 10 years in prison.

The case stemmed from the  permits issued to sell firecrackers at the Bansalan public market from Dec. 21, 2009 to Jan. 1, 2010.

The ombudsman said the sale was illegal, citing a municipal ordinance prohibiting the “storing, displaying, selling and blowing up of firecrackers” in Buildings 1 and 2 of the public market.

In its latest ruling, the Sandiganbayan said it found merit on the arguments raised in the motion for reconsideration of the accused that the sale of firecrackers was allowed only outside the premises of the market.

“Even if the mayor’s permit... allowed the sale of firecrackers at the public market, the facts all pointed to the selling of firecrackers outside its premises... Judging by the actions of the accused as against what appeared on the mayor’s permit, there appeared to be no substantial violation of the (municipal) ordinance,” the ruling penned by division chairperson Associate Justice Ma. Theresa Dolores Gomez-Estoesta read.

Associate Justices Zaldy Trespeses and Bayani Jacinto concurred with the resolution.

Fertilizer scam raps affirmed

In another case, the Sandiganbayan’s Second Division denied the motion of former Cagayan de Oro congressman Constantino Jaraula to dismiss the charges filed against him in connection with the fertilizer fund scam.

In a resolution released on Friday, the anti-graft court said Jaraula failed to raise any new arguments in his motion to reverse its Nov. 5 ruling denying his appeal to dismiss the malversation of public funds and two counts of graft filed against him.

There was no inordinate delay when it took the ombudsman almost three years to finish its investigation before filing the cases last July 20, the court said.

The period spent by the ombudsman in its investigation is justified, considering the complexity of the case and the voluminous records that probers examined, it added.

The Sandiganbayan did not give weight to Jaraula’s claim that the ombudsman failed to state the specific acts in the charge sheets showing that he conspired with his co-accused.

“His defenses are evidentiary in nature and is best passed upon and ventilated in a full-blown trial,” the court said.

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