THE Sandiganbayan Second Division has denied a motion filed by former Department of Agriculture (DA) Region 4 director Dennis Ayaullo seeking leave of court to file demurrer to evidence in a bid for the outright dismissal of a graft case against him in relation to the P728 million fertilizer fund scam in 2004.
In a resolution dated November 20, 2019 penned by Associate Justice Michael Frederick L. Musngi, the anti-graft court upheld the sufficiency of documentary and testimonial evidence presented by government prosecutors in support of the graft case.
The case, filed on March 23, 2011 by the Office of the Ombudsman, accused Araullo of mishandling P10 million Farm Inputs/Farm Implements Fund (FIFIF) released to the province of Palawan and the capital city of Puerto Princesa at P5 million each.
Prosecutors said the DA regional director acted with manifest partiality, evident bad faith, or gross inexcusable negligence when he allowed the transfer of agricultural assistance funds to suppliers and program proponents without proper authority.
Graft investigators said the fund transfers were split into smaller sums to evade the required signing authority.
In addition, they noted that the non-government organization chosen as project partners as well as the suppliers of agricultural inputs were pre-selected despite having dubious track records as shown by the lack of supporting documents to justify their accreditation.
Lastly, prosecutors questioned the failure of NGOs and project proponents to submit a proper liquidation of the Fertilizer Funds.
Araullo claimed the prosecution panel failed to present the required proof beyond reasonable doubt to overcome presumption of innocence.
He noted that a government auditor testifying for the prosecution made judicial admissions that there was full accounting and liquidation of P5.614 million while only P3.35 million per area was released which left an unspent balance of P5.25 million.
For the unliquidated amount, he argued that he is not the accountable official since his duties as a regional director does not include custody of government funds.
However, the court said it found the testimony of 11 prosecution witnesses and the documents adduced to be enough to build a prima facie case against Araullo.
It added that the arguments raised by the defendant are matters that are better vented and addressed during trial on the merits.
“After a careful review of the records of the case and the evidence of the prosecution, the Court resolves to deny the Motion filed by accused Araullo. The accused failed to show that the prosecution’s evidence was insufficient to establish a prima facie case against him,” the Sandiganbayan said.