February 24, 2017, 2:52 am
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Padaca seeks dismissal of graft, malversation cases

FORMER Elections Commissioner Maria Gracia Cielo Padaca has sought leave of court to file a demurrer to evidence, a move to challenge the strength of the graft and malversation cases filed against her for possible dismissal.

A demurrer to evidence questions the sufficiency, materiality, and admissibility of evidence presented by the prosecution.

Even without leave of court, a defendant may still file the motion but with the attendant risk of outright conviction in the event that the court pronounces the body of evidence sufficient to overcome presumption of innocence.

By first seeking leave of court, the accused will not be deemed to have waived her right to present her evidence if the demurrer is denied.

Padaca was accused of unlawful release of P25 million in public funds to the Economic Development for Western Isabela and Northern Luzon Foundation, Inc. (EDWINLFI), a non-governmental organization in 2006 while serving as provincial governor of Isabela.

The fund was intended as an economic grant for agricultural communities in Isabela in the form of soft loans to farming families. Prosecutors said the transfer of the fund to a private foundation bypassed the Sangguniang Panlalawigan.

Named co-defendants were provincial legal officer Johnas Lamonera, former Roxas vice mayor Servando Soriano, and private respondent Dionisio Pine, manager of EDWINLFI.

The prosecution rested its case on December 12, 2016 with the submission of its Formal Offer of Evidence.

The defense said the cases deserve to be thrown out because the prosecution failed to support its allegations as well as the key elements of the offense.

It noted that the witness presented by the prosecution admitted on cross-examination that EDWINLFI received no compensation for implementing the project and that the loans were actually extended to farmer beneficiaries.

The defense likewise added that Padaca never had custody of the funds, which is a fatal defect to the government’s case since one of the elements required is proof that the accused was the accountable officer. 
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