THE Sandiganbayan has upheld the sufficiency of government evidence to support a ruling of conviction against five provincial officials of Bataan charged with falsification of public documents in relation to a patrol boat procurement deal in 2006.
In a five-page resolution penned by Associate Justice Kevin Narce B. Vivero, the Sixth Division denied the motion filed by provincial agriculturist Imelda Inieto, supply officer Pedro Baluyot, audit analyst Angelina Villanueva, local treasury operations officer Francisco Caparas, and general services office division head Evangeline Diaz asking for a leave of court to file a demurrer to evidence.
Associate Justices Sarah Jane T. Fernandez and Karl B. Miranda concurred.
A demurrer to evidence is a challenge to the strength or sufficiency of the evidence presented by the prosecution to support the allegations. If granted, it has the effect of an outright acquittal.
The five were named co-defendants on allegations of fraud attending the purchase of a patrol boat intended to augment the provincial government’s campaign against illegal fishing in its waters.
Prosecutors said the original specification of the boat was changed from six-cylinder gas engine to four-cylinder gas engine.
The alteration was reportedly made on the Contract Agreement, Notice of Award and Notice of Proceed changing the specifications.
In their motion, the defendants claimed the evidence adduced lacked proof of conspiracy among them or that the contents of the identified documents are absolutely false.
They likewise claimed they were mere signatories on the documents and they did so as part of their ministerial function.
The prosecution countered that Inieto signed the acceptance and inspection report as head of the Provincial Agricultural Office, the end-user of the boat.
On the other hand, it noted that Villanueva, Baluyot and Caparas signed the same report as the designate inspectors, while Diaz, as PGSO officer, has custodial control over properties owned by the provincial government.
The Inspection Report No. 06-01-022 stated that the boat acquired has a 4-cylinder engine while Purchase Order No. 017-A described the seacraft as a boat with 6-cylinder engine.