Zamboanga del Sur lawmaker acquitted of graft
Elizabeth Marcelo (The Philippine Star) - May 26, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Zamboanga del Sur second district Rep. Aurora Cerilles has been cleared of graft over an advertisement deal that the provincial government entered with a local radio station when she was governor in 2005.

“Review... of the records of this case shows that... the prosecution evidence failed to meet the quantum of proof required for the conviction of... Cerilles,” the Sandiganbayan’s Second Division said in a 39-page decision promulgated on May 17.

Filed by the Office of the Ombudsman in 2013, the case stemmed from the release of a check amounting to P483,840 as payment to Baganian Broadcasting Corp. (BBC) for advertisements of the provincial government’s programs and activities.

The ombudsman said the payment was illegal because the contract with BBC did not undergo public bidding.

However, the Sandiganbayan said the prosecution failed to present a single evidence or witness that established Cerilles’ direct participation in the selection of BBC and release of payment.

 “The only purported participation attributed to the accused... was her supposed signature stamped on the check... The prosecution utterly failed to establish that said stamped signature... is the true and authentic signature of the accused,” the second division said.

The court did not give weight to the prosecution’s allegation that the deal was awarded to BBC because Cerilles’ husband Antonio, a former congressman and now Zamboanga del Sur governor, was the owner of the company.

The Sandiganbayan said the Cerilles family had long divested its shares in BBC, citing a deed of sale dated Sept. 20, 1996 to a certain Alfonso Ortega Jr. 

“The prosecution’s evidence failed to overcome the presumption of innocence, thus the accused is entitled to an acquittal... Suspicion, no matter how strong must never sway judgment,” the court said.

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