Bail in malversation case of TRC official reduced

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    THE Sandiganbayan has allowed the P200,000 bail bond previously set in a malversation case against former Technology Resource Center director general Dennis Cunanan to be slashed by half after he pleaded difficulty in raising the amount required.

    In a five-page resolution, the Sandiganbayan Third Division agreed to modify its July 19, 2019 resolution which had earlier overruled the recommendation of the Office of the Ombudsman to hold Cunanan and his co-defendants without bail.

    “Although the accused-movant was already granted a reduced bail of P200,000 by way of his motion for reconsideration dated April 29, 2019, We revisited the circumstances surrounding the present plea …and found the grounds raised by the accused-movant, particularly the number of cases filed…to be meritorious,” the anti-graft court said.

    Named co-defendants in the case were another former TRC director general Antonio Ortiz and private defendants Petronila Balmaceda, Thelma Balmaceda, and Leoncio Garo Balisi, all officers of a non-government organization, Pangkabuhayan Foundation Inc.

    In his motion, Cunanan apologized to the court for his inability to raise the P200,000 bail bond, saying his financial ability has been adversely affected by the sheer number of criminal cases filed against him in relation to the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) scam.

    He asked the court to take judicial notice of his financial plight underscoring the pendency of 18 PDAF cases against him, including eight lodged with the Third Division alone.

    Cunanan’s counsel pointed out that he has posted bail in these cases as proof that he is not a flight risk.

    Prosecutors had previously sought denial of bail to Cunanan and another former TRC director general Antonio Ortiz on the ground that the amount involved is P20 million which is above the P8.8 million threshold amount set under RA 10951 for a non-bailable malversation case.

    However, Cunanan obtained a favorable ruling on his motion for reconsideration which cited the inapplicability of RA 10951 even if the 2017 law is supposed to have a retroactive effect.

    He argued that the crime he is accused of was supposedly committed in 2007 or 10 years before RA 10951 took effect to amend the Revised Penal Code.

    At the same time, his lawyer cited the principle of lenity wherein the retroactive application of an amendatory law should only take effect if it is favorable to the accused.

    The court agreed noting that “penal statutes should be liberally construed in favor of the accused.”