FOR the fourth time this year, the Sandiganbayan has acquitted former Caloocan City mayor Enrico Echiverri of a graft charge over alleged irregularities in a road improvement project eight years ago.
In a 61-page resolution penned by Presiding Justice Amparo M. Cabotaje-Tang, the anti-graft court’s Third Division said that prosecutors failed to prove the second element of a graft offense – that the accused acted with manifest partiality, evident bad faith or gross inexcusable negligence.
“To be sure, public officers enjoy the presumption of regularity in the discharge of their duties and official functions. To overcome this presumption, nothing short of clear and convincing proof is required. After a painstaking review of the evidence…the Court holds that the prosecution failed to overcome the said presumption,” the Third Division declared.
With these findings, the court granted the demurrer to evidence filed by Echiverri and his co-accused, former city accountant Edna Centeno and former city budget officer Jesusa Garcia ,who were also cleared of liability in a separate falsification case.
Associate Justices Bernelito R. Fernandez and Ronald B. Moreno concurred.
In separate decisions in July and August, the anti-graft court’s Sixth Division also acquitted the same set of defendants of graft and falsification cases while the Fifth Division also issued a separate acquittal earlier in June concerning road construction and flood-control projects.
In April, the Office of the Ombudsman also withdrew two other graft charges against them involving similar allegations of anomalous approval of infrastructure contracts.
Based on the information filed last year by the Office of the Ombudsman, Echiverri, Garcia and Centeno were accused of giving unwarranted benefits, advantage or preference to E.V. and E. Construction which was awarded the P1.45 million contract to renovate the drainage system and improve the paving of the pathwalk in Barangay 175, Caloocan City.