2 former DOF officials walk on graft, falsification charges

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    A FORMER official of the Department of Finance was acquitted by the Sandiganbayan on two counts of graft and two charges of falsification of public documents just six days after the same division of the anti-graft court threw out his plea to dismiss 34 other criminal cases.

    In a 30-page decision promulgated December 21, 2020, the Fourth Division granted the demurrer to evidence filed by defendant Raul de Vera, former acting executive director of the DOF- One Stop-Shop Inter-Agency Tax Credit Duty Drawback Center (DOF-Center); and a similar pleading by Rosanna Diala, DOF-Center senior tax specialist.

    The two were named co-defendants in all four cases alleging that they conspired with other DOF officials in the unlawful issuance of tax credit certificates (TCCs) in favor of bus company Jam Liner Inc. in 1996 for the sum of P7.35 million and P4.41 million.

    Prosecutors said the supporting documents submitted by the bus firm for its TCC application were spurious, hence the actions of the accused public officers gave advantage to the transport company and caused injury to the government.

    In granting the demurrer to evidence, the court said the prosecution’s evidence fell short of the required quantum of proof needed to obtain a verdict of guilt as conspiracy was not sufficiently established.

    “Without definitive proof that there was a community of conscious and criminal design on the part of the accused, the court finds discomfort in concluding that accused conspired altogether in committing the offenses,” the Sandiganbayan said.

    The court noted that the testimony of the prosecution’s own witnesses cleared the accused since they admitted that the supposed cash deposits that went into the account of De Vera were unrelated to the pending cases.

    Since the grant of a demurrer to evidence has the effect of an acquittal, the court’s decision can no longer be appealed.

    In a separate resolution dated December 15, 2020, the Fourth Division denied De Vera’s bid for the dismissal of 17 graft and 17 estafa charges pending against him.

    In that ruling, the court said the accused merely reiterated arguments previously raised in his motion to dismiss that was overruled by the anti-graft court in a July 28, 2020 ruling.

    The court also overruled his claim of inordinate delay for his failure to offer proof that the delay prejudiced him or that he was persecuted, oppressed or forced to undergo a vexatious process during investigation.