Ex-Cebu mayor ekes out win over evidence in graft case

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by Allan Yves Briones

Former Ronda mayor Esteban Sia has won himself a slight victory over the prosecution in a case where his former municipal accountant has turned state witness.

In a resolution by the anti-graft court, it sided by the former mayor regarding the presentation of evidence on the side of the Office of the Ombudsman, particularly of Graft Prevention and Control Officer Roderick Blazo.

“The Report sought to be produced is undoubtedly in the possession of witness Blazo. To test the accuracy and truthfulness of witness Blazo’s testimony, insofar as the Report is concerned, accused Sia must be allowed to inspect the Report and to cross-examine witness Blazo thereon,” the Sandiganbayan 6th Division stated.

In their motion for reconsideration, the prosecution pleaded with the court to review its decision directing Blazo to produce his investigatory report, claiming confidentiality under the Code of Ethics.

In addition, they averred that a witness only expected to “answer questions”, not produce evidence, citing Section 3, Rule 132 of the Rules of Court.

Sia, in his opposition, countered that by invoking the report in his testimony, Blazo has waived its confidentiality, and that it will be “unfair and unjust” if it can’t be subject to cross-examination.

In denying the motion, the anti-graft court reminded the prosecution that the Rules of Court say no such thing.

“[T]here is nothing in said provision that would even remotely suggest that answering questions is the only obligation of the witness, to the exclusion of everything else,” the court said.

With regards to confidentiality, the court explained that investigatory records are “as a general rule” not confidential, only in specific instances – which the prosecution failed to do.

Sia was charged with graft and malversation for allegedly taking advantage of their positions, and failing to return P2.06 million which were subsequently used as cash advances.

Last October, former municipal accountant Genera Kasayan was discharged as a state witness against the former mayor.

Undersigned in the resolution are Division Chairperson Sarah Jane Fernandez, concurred by Associate Justices Karl Miranda and Lorifel Pahimna.