Ex-La Union solon, GOCC execs walk on PDAF raps

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    THE Sandiganbayan has thrown out graft and malversation charges against former La Union congressman Thomas Dumpit Jr. and two of his co-accused over the alleged fraudulent disbursement of his Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) amounting to P15 million in 2008.

    In a 36-page decision penned by Associate Justice Geraldine Faith A. Econg, the anti-graft court’s First Division granted Dumpit’s demurrer to evidence, declaring that the evidence presented by the prosecution fell short of the required proof to secure the conviction of the accused.

    Also acquitted were National Agri-Business Corporation Administrative and Finance director Rhodora B. Mendoza and General Services Unit head Romulo M. Relevo.

    “(T)he prosecution failed to muster the required quantum of evidence. The burden of proving the guilt of the accused lies with the prosecution which must rely on the strength of its own evidence and not on the weakness of the evidence of the accused,” the court declared.

    Associate Justices Efren N. de la Cruz and Edgardo M. Caldona concurred with the ruling.

    Based on the charges filed by the Office of the Ombudsman in 2017, Dumpit was accused of conspiring with Nabcor officials led by its former president Allan Javellana to allegedly defraud the government by funneling the lawmaker’s PDAF allocations into Kasangga sa Magandang Bukas Foundation Inc. (KMBFI).

    The money was supposedly intended to implement livelihood programs for farmers in Dumpit’s district but prosecutors and graft investigators said the project turned out to be non-existent.

    Despite calling 26 witnesses to testify against the defendants, the Sandiganbayan said the prosecution’s evidence did not prove the charges against Dumpit and his co-accused.

    It emphasized that contrary to the specific allegation against Dumpit, there was no evidence that the former lawmaker unilaterally picked KMBFI as the implementing non-government organization for his PDAF-funded projects.

    “Based on the foregoing and a judicious perusal of the case records, accused Dumpit, Relevo and Mendoza are found not to have acted with manifest impartiality, evident bad faith or gross inexcusable negligence,” the Sandiganbayan said.