Sandiganbayan allows ex-PNP officials to challenge evidence in 'Euro generals' case

MANILA, Philippines – The anti-graft court Sandiganbayan has allowed 9 former senior police officials to challenge the evidence in the 5-year-old graft case filed against them over the alleged misuse of Philippine National Police (PNP) confidential and intelligence funds.

In a 9-page resolution on May 2, the Sandiganbayan Second Division granted the separate motions for leave of court to file demurrers to evidence of the following former PNP officials:

The defendants were given 10 days to file their respective demurrers to evidence while prosecutors were ordered to file their comment 10 days upon receipt of the defense pleadings.

Demurrer to evidence

A demurrer to evidence is a challenge to the sufficiency of testimonial and documentary exhibits presented by the prosecution.

Motions for leave of court to file demurrer to evidence are usually denied in cases where the evidence, in the eyes of the court, appears to be strong enough to support a guilty verdict.

While the Sandiganbayan Second Division granted the motions of the former police officials, it did not say anything on the strength or weakness of the evidence presented by the prosecution.

 “After a careful review of the records of the case and the evidence of the prosecution, the Court is inclined to grant the Motions filed by the accused in order to adequately provide the defense an opportunity to test the sufficiency of the evidence presented by the prosecution and to determine if the same is enough to warrant a conviction for any or all the accused,” it said.

Associate Justice Michael Frederick Musngi penned the resolution with concurrences from Associate Justices Oscar Herrera Jr, and Lorifel Pahimna.

The cases were filed in January 2014 over the “Euro Generals” controversy that involved senior PNP officials who were accused of piggybacking on the PNP delegation to the 77th Interpol General Assembly in St Petersburg, Russia, in October 2008.

The Office of the Ombudsman had accused the defendants of going on a junket and illegally tapping into the PNP’s intelligence funds for their travel allowances, amounting to P10 million.

The irregularity was discovered after Russian authorities detained Dela Paz and his wife at the Shremetyevo International Airport in Moscow on October 11, 2008, after they were found with undeclared cash amounting to 105,000 euros (P7 million at the time), just as they were about to board their plane.

Defense

In their motions, the defendants claimed that the prosecution failed to prove the elements of graft in their case.

Dela Paz said that there was nothing on record to prove that he had “persuaded, induced, or influenced” other police officers to release the P10 million from the PNP fund. He also invoked good faith in spending the amount that had been released to him.

Rodriguez and Pestaño argued that the fund was released only with the authority of then-PNP chief Jesus Verzosa.

Rentoy pointed out that he was not included in the findings of the Ombudsman investigators, while Carta, Doria, and Caringal said  the extent of their participation was receiving their travel allowance authorized by the PNP chief and interior secretary.

They all argued that the government did not suffer any undue injury as the money had been fully refunded, and that the Commission on Audit did not issue a notice of disallowance to the PNP. – Rappler.com