Former Caloocan mayor Echiverri acquitted of graft anew

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    THE Sandiganbayan Sixth Division has thrown out a graft case filed against former Caloocan City mayor Enrico “Recom” Echiverri and two other former city officials over alleged irregularities in a P4.95 million flood control contract awarded in 2012.

    In a 33-page decision issued last August 22, the anti-graft court said the prosecution failed to adduce evidence showing the former mayor acted with manifest partiality, evident bad faith, and gross inexcusable negligence when he approved the contract for the upgrading and improvement of drainage systems along Antipolo St. in Barangay 30 Caloocan City that was awarded to P.B. Grey Construction.

    The court also noted there was no evidence on the supposed participation of co-defendants former city accountant Edna Centeno and former city budget officer Jesusa Garcia in the graft charge.

    Sandiganbayan Associate Justices Sarah Jane T. Fernandez, Karl B. Miranda, and Kevin Narce B. Vivero ordered the charges dismissed for insufficiency of evidence and the hold departure orders against the three lifted and aside.

    The same three former city officials were also acquitted in June by the Sandiganbayan Fifth Division and in July by the Sixth Division of two other sets of graft and falsification charges concerning road construction and flood-control projects.

    Back in April, the Office of the Ombudsman also withdrew two other graft charges against them involving similar allegations of anomalous approval of infrastructure contracts.

    Centeno and Garcia were also cleared of any liability in a separate case of falsification of public documents. The court noted that government prosecutors failed to prove key elements of the crime specifically that the accused made untruthful statements in a public document and that the facts narrated were absolutely false.

    The cases, filed in 2017 had accused Echiverr, Centeno and Garcia of conspiracy to give unwarranted benefits or advantage to P. B. Grey Construction and causing damage and prejudice to the city government.

    Prosecutors claimed the contract failed to secure prior approval from the Sangguniang Panglungsod or the city council.

    The defendants argued that the prosecution’s own evidence showed that Ordinance No, 0468 s. 2010 approved the annual budget of P3.3 billion for the programs, projects, services and activities of the city for the following year.

    This was followed by Sanggunian Resolution No. 1985 s. 2012 which ratified and confirmed all contracts entered by into by Caloocan City.

    After the prosecution terminated its presentation and the defense challenged the sufficiency of evidence to establish the offense alleged, the Sandiganbayan ruled in favor of the accused.