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Sandigan throws out graft complaint vs Elenita Binay

The Sandiganbayan’s Fifth Division has dismissed the graft complaint filed against former Makati mayor Elenita Binay.

The case stemmed from the alleged anomalous award of the deal for the supply and delivery of panel fabric partition and connector bracket for the furnishing of the new city hall in 1999.

Elenita Binay. PHOTO BY JOHN ORVEN VERDOTE

In a 31-page resolution promulgated on June 10, the court said there was no sufficient evidence to convict Binay.

“After a careful examination and evaluation of the Prosecution’s evidence, and taking into account the Prosecution’s own admission that it had no direct evidence available for the proper prosecution of the charge against accused Binay, the Court finds the evidence against accused Binay insufficient to support a finding of guilt beyond reasonable doubt. In particular, the Prosecution was not able to present the necessary evidence to prove that accused Binay acted with manifest partiality, evident bad faith or gross inexcusable negligence in awarding the subject contract under PO (purchase order) 9989, through a simulated/rigged bidding, in favor of Office Gallery International Inc.,” the anti-graft court said.

“In the present case, the Prosecution failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt that accused Binay was motivated by malice, gross inexcusable negligence, or evident bad faith in approving the transaction,” it added as it granted Binay petition for demurrer to evidence.

The Office of the Ombudsman filed the case against the former Makati City mayor in 2006, accusing her and other individuals of violating Section 3(e) of Republic Act (RA) 3019 otherwise known as the “Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.”

The Ombudsman alleged in the charge sheet that from September to November 1999, the accused awarded the contract for the supply and delivery of panel fabric partition and connector bracket for the furnishing of the new city hall of Makati to the then-corporate officers of the Office Gallery International Inc. through a simulated/rigged public bidding dated Sept. 17, 1999.

But the court said the prosecution failed to present sufficient evidence to prove that the bidding was rigged.

“While it is asserted by the Prosecution that no bidding actually took place, the Minutes of the Bidding dated 17 September 1999… shows otherwise. The Minutes shows that the bidding took place on Sept. 17, 1999 and was participated in by Grace Park Industries Inc., Perfection Homes Corp. and Office Gallery International Inc., with the latter declared as the winning bidder,” it said.

“After a judicious evaluation, and for the reasons stated hereunder, the Court finds the evidence presented by the Prosecution to be insufficient to prove the guilt beyond reasonable doubt of the accused Binay for violation of Section 3(e) of RA 3019,” the court added.

It also found insufficient the prosecution’s evidence on the alleged excess purchases of Binay.

“While the absence of a floor plan could have resulted in the procurement of items beyond what was needed, the audit team was not able to make a physical count or inventory of the items that were supposed to have been purchased vis-à-vis the number of items present in the premises. This evidence alone, as against accused Binay, is insufficient to prove her guilt beyond reasonable doubt,” it said.

“The same holds true for the prosecution’s evidence on overpricing,” it added.

The Sandiganbayan ordered the return of the bail bond posted by Binay. It also lifted and set aside the hold departure order it had issued against her.

Associate Justice Rafael Lagos, who leads the Sandiganbayan’s Fifth Division, penned the resolution, which was concurred in by Associate Justice Maria Theresa Mendoza Arcega and Maryann Corpus Mañalac.

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