By Czarina Nicole Ong Ki
Former Caloocan City Mayor Enrico Echiverri was able to shake off another one of the graft charges that he is facing before the Sandiganbayan.
His demurrer to evidence was granted by the anti-graft court’s Sixth Division on July 17 after it was found that the prosecution’s evidence failed to prove the existence of all elements of the crime of graft.
He faced the graft charge, together with former city budget officer Jesusa Garcia and city accountant Edna Centeño, who were slapped with an additional falsification charge for violation of Article 171, paragraph 4 of the Revised Penal Code.
From November 16, 2012 to March 31, 2013, Echiverri, Centeno and Garcia reportedly gave undue advantage to Red Scorpion Construction and Supply (RSCS) in the amount of P860,450.42 for the drainage improvement along M. Hizon Street in Caloocan City.
The payment was made even though there was no specific or itemized appropriation ordinance passed by the Sangguniang Panlungsod of Caloocan for the project.
In its 40-page decision, the Sandiganbayan ruled that the second and third elements of graft were not fully established in this case. It was alleged that Echiverri, Centeno and Garcia acted with manifest partiality, evident bad faith or gross inexcusable negligence when they awarded the contract to RSCS.
However, the Court did not find this to be the case since the project was covered by the appropriation in Sangguniang Panlungsod Ordinance No. 0468 s. 2010.
At the same time, there was no undue injury caused to the government since there was indeed a public bidding conducted for the project, and RSCS happened to be the lowest bidder.
“For both the award of the contract for the subject project, and the payment of the amount of P860,450.42, to RSCS, the prosecution made no attempt to show how damage or undue injury was caused to the government or to any party for that matter, as a result of the accused’s acts,” the decision read.
The decision was written by Chairperson Sarah Jane Fernandez with the concurrence of Associate Justices Karl Miranda and Kevin Narce Vivero.