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Sandigan junks graft case vs VP Binay's wife

April 11, 2011 6:35pm

The Philippine anti-graft court has dismissed the graft case filed against former Makati City mayor Elenita Binay, wife of Vice President Jejomar Binay, and her co-accused in connection with the alleged overpricing in the purchase of office partitions and furniture in 2000 and 2001.

The Sandiganbayan Second Division cited weak evidence as reason for the dismissal of the case. It said even the prosecution has admitted that the information it filed in the case did not conform with the evidence.

Binay was accused of former Makati City Hall officials and officers from furniture firm Office Gallery International Inc. in an alleged excess purchase of office partitions and furniture for the new City Hall amounting to P58.04 million.

Binay's co-accused were former city administrator Nicanor V. Santiago Jr, general services department head Ernesto A. Aspillaga, and private defendants Li Yee Shing, Jason Li and Vivian M. Edurise, corporate officers of Office Gallery International Inc.

“(T)his court is duty-bound to spare the accused from the unnecessary burden, expense and anxiety of having to defend themselves in public trial. The admission made in open court early on by the Prosecution that the Information they filed in this case does not conform with evidence on record, foretold a bleak conclusion to this case," the court said in its 69-page decision.

The decision was penned by Presiding Justice Edilberto Sandoval, the division chairman, and was concurred in by Associate Justices Teresita V. Diaz-Baldos and Samuel R. Martires.

The court said that based on Prosecutor Rodrigo Coquia’s statements during trial, the information was unclear about what the offense really was — undue injury caused to the government on account of the alleged excess purchase or overprice; or unwarranted benefits, advantage or preference given to Office Gallery International Inc. because the transaction was a negotiated purchase.

Little weight was also given to testimonies by members of a team of government auditors, led by newly-appointed Commission on Audit Commissioner Heidi Mendoza, as the court noted that the system they relied on was full of inconsistencies.

The court noted that the prosecution used a photocopy of the Furniture Layout Plan and used it as its basis in computing the supposed overprice. Under questioning by Justice Martires, State Auditor III Dean Suson Montalban acknowledged that they came up with the figure for the excess purchase by a simple comparison of the Layout Plan with the purchase request and purchase order.

“It is beyond belief that the Prosecution came to Court with evidence comprising merely of a bare comparison of the number of partitions purchased as appearing in the Purchase Order, on one hand, and partitions planned to be used as indicated in the Furniture Layout Plan, on the other, without referring to a confirmatory physical count of the partitions actually used in the City Hall," the court pointed out. - KBK, GMA News




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