No evidence: Sandiganbayan acquits ex-Cebu mayor in 15-year corruption case

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The Sandiganbayan has acquitted a former municipal mayor of Cebu province of malversation involving P250,000 in 2002, citing the prosecution’s failure to prove his guilt beyond reasonable doubt.

The Sandiganbayan Second Division, in a 37-page decision dated Nov. 16, 2018, found former Tudela, Cebu Mayor Rogelio Baquerfo not guilty of malversation of public funds under Article 217 of the Revised Penal Code.

“No civil liability is adjudged against him as the act or omission on which it can be based does not exist,” the Sandiganbayan said.

The anti-graft court also ordered the release of the cash bond posted by the accused. The hold departure order issued against him was also ordered lifted and set aside.

The Office of the Ombudsman accused Baquerfo of malversation of public funds allegedly after converting for his own personal use some P250,000 on Nov. 16, 2002 and failed to account for it despite demands to do so.

The Sandiganbayan issued an arrest warrant and a hold departure order against Baquerfo in December 2010.

In Janurary 2011, he surrendered and posted a P40,000 bail bond for his temporary liberty.

After several postponements, he was finally arraigned on Oct. 29, 2013 and pleaded not guilty.

The anti-graft court ruled that Baquerfo did not commit the offense of malversation of public funds.

“A careful perusal of all documentary and testimonial evidence on record shows that the plaintiff failed to satisfactorily prove that accused Baquerfo appropriated, took, misappropriated or consented or, through abandonment or negligence, permitted another person to take the public fund subject of this case,” it said.

In its ruling, the Sandiganbayan said “the allegations were not substantiated by any evidence that the municipality of Tuleda did not receive the financial assistance of P250,000 and the same amount had already been used by accused Baquerfo as payment of his previous P150,000 cash advance and that the balance of PHP100,000 was given to him as change.”

“Moreover, the witnesses admitted not only to the fact that there was no paper trail on the withdrawal from the municipal funds of P100,000 given as change to the accused, but also to arriving at this conclusion based merely on assumptions,” it added. (PNA)