Sandigan finds no proof vs. Ted-A A +A
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
THE anti-graft court has dismissed with finality one of the anti-graft cases filed against former Mandaue City mayor Thadeo Ouano, over the purchase of allegedly overpriced lampposts.
It said the investigation was “hasty and injudicious.”
Atty. Dennis Añover said the ruling, promulgated last March 24 but released only yesterday, bars the case from getting filed again because doing so violates the double jeopardy rule.
“He has already been arraigned. He cannot be charged twice for the same offense,” Añover, who is based in Manila, told Sun.Star Cebu.
“Ang Ginoo wa gyud matulog (God does not sleep). I feel vindicated that the Sandiganbayan has dismissed my case with finality,” Ouano said through his publicist Jonji Gonzales.
Ouano was the only respondent that insisted on being arraigned. “I was confident all along of my innocence,” said Ouano, now a candidate for the Cebu Provincial Board.
“Now I have been proven right.”
Assistant Ombudsman Virginia Palanca-Santiago, for her part, declined to comment because she has not received a copy of the ruling. She said she is sure the anti-graft office’s Manila unit has been informed.
It was Santiago who supervised the fact-finding investigation that led to Ouano’s indictment, together with 20 other officials from the cities of Mandaue, Lapu-Lapu and the regional office of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).
The dismissal was decided by the Sandigan-bayan’s Second Division, composed of Associate Justices Edilberto Sandoval, Teresita Diaz-Baldos and Samuel Martires.
The indictment is one of seven that was raffled to the anti-graft court’s five divisions; it is based on joint resolution OMB-V-C-0124-C, dated Jan. 24, 2008.
The Sandiganbayan already dismissed the case last year, after the Office of the Special Prosecutor “inadvertently” admitted in open court that they did not have enough evidence to prosecute it successfully.
Tanodbayan Merceditas Gutierrez, however, filed a motion for reconsideration.
The admission came after the Office of the Special Prosecutor filed a motion to allow it to reinvestigate the charge, so that they could incorporate a Commission on Audit (COA) report that, at that time, was only recently made available.
Justices allowed the reinvestigation of five of the seven cases originally filed under joint resolution OMB-V-C-0124-C. Four have since been re-filed but the one before the Second Division was not among them.
In the March 24 resolution, Sandoval, Baldos and Martires rejected Gutierrez’s motion for reconsideration and dismissed the case against all those impleaded.
“A reading of this case would present circumstances which would indicate that the manner in which the investigation was handled was hasty and injudicious,” the ruling read.
“It was admitted by the prosecution that this case has no sufficient evidence to fuel its fire as evidenced by their move to withdraw the information, purposely to better it or to drop the charges against accused,” it added.
The dismissal, however, is only final and executory as far as Ouano is concerned, because he is the only one who has been arraigned.
He still has one case pending, SB-09-CRIM-0141, at the Fourth Division.
It involves the respondents’ supposed hand in the preparation and the approval of a contract that ultimately led to the purchase and installation of 89 allegedly overpriced
lampposts in Mandaue.
That cost P19,980,000 in taxpayers’ funds.
According to a COA canvass, the 89 units mentioned in the contract are only worth P13,934,547 based on the price of similar park lamps, or P8,745,567 had other comparable imported decorative lamps been used.
This is the second time the Sandiganbayan ruled against the anti-graft office in a lamppost-related case.
Earlier, the Third Division dismissed Sandiganbayan case SB-08-CRM-0237, which tackles contract 06H00048 between the DPWH and Gampik Construction and Development Corp.
It corresponded to the supply, installation, testing and commissioning of LED bulbs, traffic signal lanterns and other traffic control devices, plus 240 decorative lampposts in Lapu-Lapu City for P35,634,401.25.
Asked what he thought of those who accused him of committing graft in the transaction, former mayor Ouano said, “I pray to God that they will be forgiven. Ako na silang gipasaylo ug iampo sa kinatas-an (I have forgiven them and will pray for them).”