Sandiganbayan acquits former Cebu City councilor of graft charge

By: Wenilyn B. Sabalo - CDN Digital Multimedia Reporter | July 01,2022 - 11:06 AM

CEBU CITY, Philippines — The Sandiganbayan cleared former Cebu City councilor Rodolfo Cabrera of graft charges stemming from an alleged overpricing of a P26-million socialized condominium project in 1997.

Cabrera was acquitted by the Sandiganbayan’s Second Division in a 16-page decision issued on June 24, 2022, after the Office of the Ombudsman, which acted as the case prosecutor, failed to prove that he violated Republic Act (RA) 3019, or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

Aside from clearing Cabrera from any civil liability, the court also ordered that the cash bonds Cabrera posted be returned to him. The court also ordered the Bureau of Immigration to remove Cabrera’s name in its Hold Departure list as it ordered that the Hold Departure Order (HDO) issued against him be lifted and set aside.

A copy of the decision, penned by Associate Justice Michael Frederick Musngi and concurred by Associate Justices Oscar Herrera, Jr. and Arthur Malabaguio, was posted in the official website of the Sandiganbayan.

Cabrera, former Cebu City Mayor Alvin Garcia, and former city councilors Laurito Malinao and Rico Rey “Koko” Holganza, as well as former City Treasurer Eustaquio Cesa and private representative Pura Cimafranca, were prosecuted before the Office of the Ombudsman in 1997 on allegations that they conspired to overprice the cost of a P26.6 million socialized condominium project.

Ruling

To be convicted of the offense charged, the court said that the prosecution evidence must “prove beyond reasonable doubt” four elements of the crime which are a.) the offender is a public officer; b.) the act was done in the discharge of the public officer’s official, administrative, or judicial functions; c.) the act was done through manifest partiality, evident bad faith, or gross inexcusable negligence, and d.) the public officer caused any undue injury to any party, including the Government, or gave any private party any unwarranted benefits, advantage, or preference.

The Sandiganbayan maintained that while the first two elements of the crime were present, the prosecution failed to prove the presence of the third and the last elements in this case.

“The prosecution failed to establish evident bad faith or manifest partiality on the part of the accused to satisfy the third element for violation of Section 3(e) of RA 3019,” the Sandiganbayan in its ruling said.

The Sandiganbayan also said the prosecution failed to offer any proof of the actual damage suffered by the government because the Octa Builders Inc., was able to turn over the completed project and there was no proof of any notice of disallowance from the Commission on Audit.

Previous case developments

The case stemmed from a complaint filed before the Ombudsman-Visayas in connection with the construction of a medium-rise low-cost condominium for the city’s homeless and underprivileged residents.

The construction started in February 21, 1997 and ended on May 15, 1998. On June 2, 1998, a Deed of Conveyance was entered into by the Octa Builders Inc. and the City Local Government to transfer the ownership of the project.

On September 24, 2013, the Court issued warrants of arrest and HDO against all the accused, except Holganza, whose preliminary investigation was still pending before the Office of the Ombudsman.

Garcia posted cash bonds for bail last October 24, 2013; Cesa also did the same on November 22, 2013.

Meanwhile, the National Bureau of Investigation said that Malinao was reported dead, while Cimafranca remained at large.

Cabrera posted bail on February 11, 2014.

On Jan. 2, 2014 and April 23, 2015, Garcia and Cabrera were arraigned, respectively. They pleaded “not guilty” to the offense charged.

Holganza, on the other hand, filed a motion to dismiss on September 29, 2016 on the ground of inordinate delay. In December 2016, the Court granted the said motion and dismissed the case against Holganza.

On April 8, 2019, Garcia filed a Motion to Dismiss on the ground of inordinate delay in completing the preliminary investigation of the case.

The Court then dismissed the cases against Garcia on June 22, 2021 on the ground of violation of his Constitutional right to the speedy disposition of cases.

/bmjo

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TAGS: acquitted former Cebu City Councilor Rodolfo Cabrear, Cebu Daily News, graft case. Sandiganbayan

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