Sandigan junks Loot’s retrial bid
CEBU, Philippines — The Sandiganbayan has denied the motion of former Daanbantayan, Cebu mayor Maria Luisa Loot to conduct another trial following her conviction for graft and malversation over the awarding of loan amounting P500,000 to unqualified organization in 2007.
“In sum, the Court finds that the document sought to be presented cannot qualify as newly discovered evidence to justify the holding of a new trial,” the court’s Seventh Division said in its resolution promulgated on September 11.
The Seventh Division had earlier sentenced Loot and former Daanbantayan councilor Samuel Moralde to suffer eight to 15 years of imprisonment after they were found guilty of violation of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act and malversation of public funds under the Revised Penal Code.
Filed by the Office of the Ombudsman in April 2018, the cases stemmed from the grant of loan to private organization RBA Quail Raisers Association (RBA) in which Moralde was the then chairman.
The Ombudsman said Loot, on behalf of the municipal government, entered into a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with RBA on February 28, 2007 granting the organization a loan of P500,000 to finance its quail egg farming operation as part of the local government’s livelihood project.
The Ombudsman said the MOA was entered into without the required approval of the Sangguniang Bayan or municipal council and even when RBA was not yet an accredited organization at that time.
The Ombudsman said Loot and Moralde also failed to comply with the conditions in the MOA such as the conduct of periodic monitoring and evaluation to ascertain the actual implementation of the project.
Furthermore, the ombudsman said the loan remains unpaid and Moralde failed to submit “evidence showing that the public fund was used for the intended purpose.”
In her motion filed last month, Loot prayed before the court to reopen the trial claiming that she obtained new documents and met a new potential witness, Henry Rondina, a former staff of the Municipal Agriculture Office, to prove that there was a periodic monitoring of the project and that there was no conspiracy between her and Moralde.
Among Loot’s supposedly newly discovered evidence documents were the project proposal as well as a letter with the subject head “RBA Quail Farm Monitoring and Visitation.”
The Seventh Division, however, noted that the documents that Loot intends to present were certified as “true copy from the original” and “certified photocopy” from the file of the Municipal Agriculture Office and Engineering Office.
“Therefore, the documents were available before and during the trial considering that they were kept in the files of the said municipal offices…Verily, had accused exercised reasonable diligence in locating them, she could have easily obtained the said documents and presented them during trial,” the court said.
“It should be stressed that in order for a particular evidence to be considered as ‘newly discovered’ it is essential that the offering party exercised reasonable diligence in seeking to locate the evidence before or during trial but nonetheless failed to secure it,” it added.
The Seventh Division said the court records does not show that Loot ever moved to subpoena the said documents from the municipal offices or to locate Rondina.
Lastly, the court said that even if it would admit Loot’s supposed “newly discovered” evidence, the same still cannot disprove the finding that RBA was not yet an accredited organization at the time of the release of the financial assistance. — Philippine Star News Service, FPL (FREEMAN)