Graft trial vs ex-town agriculturist continues

By: Gerome Dalipe

The trial of the graft case against the former municipal agriculturist of Tigbauan, Iloilo will continue.

The Sandiganbayan denied the motion for leave to file a demurrer to evidence filed by Eugenia Sayson, who sought to drop the case against them for lack of evidence.

“The court simply cannot take judicial notice of the argument that will be raised by Sayson in her demurrer for purposes of determining whether leave should be granted to her in the first place so as to be allowed to file the pleading,” read the Sandiganbayan’s ruling.

The Office of the Ombudsman-Visayas has indicted Sayson, former Tigbauan mayor James Excelsior Torres, and former market supervisor George Tinguban for violating Sec. 3 (e) of Republic Act 3019, or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

They allegedly conspired to facilitate the municipality’s purchase of two defective second-hand Ford 8210 farm tractors from Grand Empire Truck and Equipment Center Corp. amounting to P1.87-million in 2009.

The respondents sought to file leave to file their respective demurrers in order “to properly demonstrate how the prosecution allegedly failed to prove the existence of all of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.”

But the prosecution said the respondents’ motions ought to be dismissed outright for failure to state the specific ground Section 23 of Rule 119 of the Rules of Court.

The anti-graft court’s Fourth Division granted Torres’ motion for leave of court to allow the presentation of additional documentary evidence within 10 days.

Torres intends to present his evidence to prove his innocence on accusations that he conspired with the supplier in the purchase of two second-hand farm tractors in 2009.

A “demurrer to evidence” has the same effect on a motion to dismiss, with the connotation that the evidence of the prosecution was not sufficient.

A “leave of court” is a permission from the court to take action that would otherwise not be permissible.

In her motion, Sayson argued the court erred when it denied its motion for leave to file demurrer to evidence.

Citing court records, Sayson said she consistently attended all the hearings and has never asked for any resetting or cancellation of her case.

To recall, the anti-graft court denied Sayson’s motion for leave to file demurrer after finding that the motion was premised merely on the general allegation that the prosecution failed to prove her guilt.

In her pleading, Sayson insisted that she did not commit any mistake in her motion for leave since she stated the details of her allegations will be discussed in the demurrer that will be filed.

In denying Sayson’s pleading, the Sandiganbayan said the accused’s failure to state the grounds in her motion is a “fatal defect which warrants the pleading’s denial.”

The purpose of obtaining prior leave of court is to determine whether or not the defendant in a criminal case has filed the demurrer merely to stall the proceedings, the justices said.

“The determination, in turn, of whether the defendant was merely trying to stall the proceedings are dependent on the allegations contained in the defendant’s motion for leave,” read the Sandiganbayan’s ruling.

Sayson has five days from receipt of the order to file her manifestation to inform this court whether she will file a demurrer to evidence without leave of court.

However, such means that she would waive her right to present evidence and agree to submit the case for resolution based on the evidence presented by the prosecution.