A PIECE of paper containing scribbles that were entirely unrelated to his pending graft case proved enough to save a barangay chairman of Manila from a six-year jail sentence.
In a 25-page decision issued last December 2, the Sandiganbayan Third Division reversed the March 21, 2019 decision of the Manila Regional Trial Court branch 47 that convicted Ephraim Maniquis of one count of violation of RA 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
The acquittal swept aside the six-year jail sentence imposed on Maniquis as well as the order for him to pay the private complainant P80,000 in cash.
Trial records showed Maniquis was accused of asking and accepting P80,000 from contractor FRCGE Trading as his supposed “share, percentage or commission” for the procurement of various supplies and materials delivered to Barangay 52, Zone 4, District 1, Manila.
The Manila RTC convicted him based on testimonies of prosecution witnesses and two pieces of paper containing his supposed handwritten acknowledgment of having received his cash commission or kickback.
In his appeal, Maniquis stressed that he was never shown the originals of the supposed acknowledgment receipts even as he disowned the handwriting in them.
He also argued that if he were really guilty of extorting money from a contractor, it would be absurd for him to have written such acknowledgment receipts to incriminate himself.
In reviewing the evidence on record, the Sandiganbayan noted that one of the acknowledgment receipts marked as “Annex G” was written on a used piece of paper that appeared to be page 6 of an order from the Office of the Ombudsman in another case.
While the supposed handwritten acknowledgment receipt was dated “6/6/12” or June 6, 2012, the back of the paper stated the Ombudsman order was issued “21 January 2013.”
The Sandiganbayan said the difference in dates, even if they were seemingly unrelated to each other, raises enough suspicion that amounts to reasonable doubt – sufficient to grant the defendant’s appeal.
In addition, it affirmed the defendant’s assertion that it is against logic for him to have written something that would amount to an admission that he committed a crime.