DOF officials walk on graft, estafa cases

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    THE Sandiganbayan has acquitted two former officials of the Department of Finance (DOF) on multiple charges of graft and estafa through falsification of public documents citing weak evidence presented by government prosecutors.

    In its 38-page resolution dated January 29, 2020, the anti-graft court’s Second Division granted the demurrer to evidence filed by accused Raul de Vera and Rosanna Diala, both former officials of the DOF-One Stop Shop Inter-Agency Tax credit and Duty Drawback Center (DOF-Center), and ruled that the prosecution’s evidence fell short of proving all the key elements of the alleged crimes.

    “For failure of the prosecution to prove beyond reasonable doubt the elements of the crime charged, the cases against De Vera and Diala should be dismissed,” the court declared.

    Associate Justice Lorifel Lacap Pahimna penned the ruling with Associate Justice Oscar C. Herrera Jr. and Michael Frederick L. Musngi concurring.

    Filed in 2013, the information named De Vera and Diala as co-defendants in three counts each of violation of section 3 (e) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act (RA 3019) and estafa through falsification of public documents together with former DOF Undersecretary Antonio Belicena and DOF-Center deputy executive director Uldarico Andutan.

    Named private defendant was Joseph Cabotaje, an executive of provincial bus company Baliwag Transit Inc.

    The Office of the Ombudsman accused them of conspiracy to defraud the government through the alleged questionable processing and approval of tax credit certificates (TCCs) for the total amount of P28.88 million.

    Prosecutors said the government suffered undue injury equivalent to the amounts contained in the three TCCs since Baliwag Transit was not qualified to the benefit having purchased bus units from Diamond Motors Corporation and/or Filipinas Truck Sales and Development Corporation which they noted is not a domestic manufacturer.

    The questioned TCCs were issued on July 10, 1995 for the sum of P10.79 million, December 4, 1995 in the amount of P6.61 million, and July 10, 1997 for P10.89 million.
    The prosecution said the DOF officials made it appear that the buses were acquired from Philippine Automotive Corporation (Pamcor), a domestic manufacturer, using spurious sales/vehicle invoices and delivery receipts.

    But the Sandiganbayan held that prosecutors failed to prove that defendants acted with manifest partiality or evident bad faith in processing, evaluating and recommending approval of the TCCs – a key element of the graft charges.

    It noted that before the DOF strengthened procedures in the Center, neither De Vera nor Diala was required to conduct a verification of the authenticity of the supporting documents attached to the TCC application.

    With regard to the complex estafa cases, the court found that prosecutors failed to link De Vera and Diala to the spurious documents submitted by the bus firm.