Sandiganbayan rejects early dismissal of pork barrel cases vs ex-TRC officials

MANILA, Philippines – The Sandiganbayan ruled that prosecutors presented evidence strong enough to proceed with trial for 3 former officials of state-owned Technology Resource Center (TRC) over cases related to the pork barrel scam.

The anti-graft court's 2nd Division denied the motions for leave to file demurrer to evidence filed by former TRC deputy director general Dennis Cunanan, group manager Maria Rosalinda Lacsamana, and chief accountant Marivic Jover.

"After a careful study, the court finds that the testimonial and documentary evidence presented by the prosecution...appear to be prima facie sufficient to sustain the conviction of the accused, including Jover, Lacsamana, and Cunanan...unless successfully rebutted by defense evidence," the court said in a decision dated April 29, 2019.

Lacsamana and Jover face 4 counts each of graft and malversation, while Cunanan faces two counts of each.

The 3 were named in charges filed in 2016, together with former Albay representative Reno Lim, other TRC officials, and private defendants from Kaagapay Magpakailanman Foundation Incorporated (KMFI) and CC Barredo Publishing House.

The Office of the Ombudsman found that P27 million of Lim's Priority Development Assistance Fund or pork barrel went to TRC in 2007, but was eventually routed to KMFI.

According to investigators, the foundation was chosen by Lim as project implementor without going through public bidding. KMFI was also found to be only registered in 2006 and had no legitimate business address.

State auditors also found that the money would be going to "fictitious or ghost projects."

The 3 previously argued that the prosecution fell short in providing the required proof beyond reasonable doubt to support the allegations. –