Almost 11 years after he was charged at the Sandiganbayan after being subjected by senators to an investigation, retired Maj. Gen. Eliseo dela Paz, former comptroller of the Philippine National Police, and several other generals were acquitted by the court of the graft and technical malversation charges filed against them by the Ombudsman.
Citing insufficiency of evidence, the anti-graft court’s Second Division dismissed the charges filed in connection with the confiscation of thousands of euros equivalent to P10 million found on Dela Paz and his companions as they were returning from the International Police Organization conference in St. Petersburg, Russia in 2008.
Charged with Dela Paz were retired generals Jaime Garcia Caringal, Ismael Rafanan, Orlando Pestaño, Samuel Rodriguez, Tomas Rentoy, Romeo Ricardo, German Doria and Emmanuel Carta.
The Sandifganbayan said the Ombudsman’s evidence of Commission on Audit circulars stating how the intelligence fund should be used did not prove that Dela Paz and companions committed the offenses.
“Technical malversation happens when the one who uses the funds under his administration for public use other than what it was appropriated for. These pieces of evidence [from COA] do not prove that the use of CIF [confidential and intelligence funds] for the expenses incurred by the PNP in its participation to the Interpol Assembly is not a covered expense,” the Sandiganbayan said.
“The prosecution bears the burden to establish the guilt of the accused beyond reasonable doubt. It is the prosecution’s duty to prove each and every element of the sense charge in order to warrant a finding of guilt for the same. The prosecution failed to sufficiently establish the essential elements of the crimes charge and to overcome the presumption of innocence in favor of the accused. Accordingly, the case against the accused are hereby dismissed,” the anti-graft court added.
The Sandiganbayan added: “As can be gleaned from the prosecution’s evidence, the use of the CIF covers a wide range of activities. Thus, in the absence of competent proof that the INTERPOL Assembly did not cover the above issues, we cannot rule that the activity cannot be covered under the fund.”