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Ombudsman loses 2nd case vs ex-AFP-RSBS execs

October 17, 2010 6:13pm
The Office of the Ombudsman, in hot water over its alleged poor prosecution record, has lost a second criminal case against former officials of the Armed Forces of the Philippines-Retirement and Separation Benefits System (AFP-RSBS), a state-owned pension fund for the military.

This was after the Sandiganbayan junked the graft case against four former AFP-RSBS officials concerning the alleged overpricing in the acquisition of residential lots in Tanauan, Batangas in 1997 due to lack of evidence.

In a 15-page resolution issued last October 11, the Sandiganbayan’s First Division said not enough evidence were presented to prosecute former AFP-RSBS president Brig. Gen. Jose Ramiscal Jr. (retired), former legal division head Meinrado Enrique A. Bello, former documentation and legal division head Manuel Satuito, and former project officer Capt. Perfecto O. Quilicot Jr.

The anti-graft court said the Ombudsman failed to present adequate evidence to support its allegation that there was overpricing in the purchase of a 2.4-hectare lot located in Malaking Pulo, Tanauan, Batangas from Spouses Rodolfo and Domeciana Opeña on July 14, 1997.

Court records showed that AFP-RSBS issued a Security Bank check for P4,852,242 to the Opeña couple on September 9, 1997 after the signing of a bilateral deed of sale. But Ombudsman investigators discovered a second deed of sale showing that the lot was sold for only P720,630.

The latter document, which bore only the signatures of the Opeñas, was used for the tax declaration on the sale of the property.

Prosecutors claimed the real purchase price was the lower amount and the defendants pocketed the difference between the two declared acquisition costs amounting to P4.13 million. The Sandiganbayan, however, was not convinced.

“We have carefully examined the pieces of evidence adduced by the prosecution and found that there is nothing therein that will prove that the true and correct purchase price of the subject property is that indicated in the unilateral deed of sale, that is, P720,630," the court said.

The Sandiganbayan also noted that the prosecution did not call either Domeciana or Rodolfo Opeña to the witness stand.

“The Court is perplexed and found it strange that the prosecution did not bother to present sellers Spouses Domeciana Ortega and Rodolfo Opeña, or even the witnesses to the said transaction, whose signatures appeared in both deeds of sale, and who could very well shed light on the true selling price involved in the transaction," it pointed out.

This was the second case that the Ombudsman lost against Ramiscal and his co-accused. On November 26, 2009, the Third Division also issued a verdict exonerating the four AFP-RSBS officials of a graft charge wherein prosecutors accused them of overpricing the cost of a 1.22-hectare property in Bgy. Sulpoc, Tanauan City.

The October 11, 2010 ruling was penned by Associate Justice Efren de la Cruz, division chairman. Associate Justices Rodolfo Ponferrada and Alexander Gesmundo concurred. - KBK, GMANews.TV
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