A graft case seemingly reeking with politics and vengeance filed by alleged detractors against former Panglao Mayor Doloreich Dumaluan was ordered dismissed by the Sandiganbayan because the “accusedÂ have been condemned based on uncertain evidence clearly insufficient to sustain their conviction”.
Dumaluan was accused by his alleged political detractors of “grave abuse of authority and evident bad faith” for “willfully, unlawfully and feloniously” charging to the account of municipality of Panglao the amount of Php5,601.23 gasoline and diesel to his private vehicles despite the fact that he received his Transportation Allowance.
The 29 page unanimous decision by the 5th Division of the Sandiganbayan struck down the accusations against the former mayor saying that “it cannot be said that there is perversity on the part of Mayor Dumaluan in collecting his RATA (Representation and Transportation Allowance) for January, 2005 (Php6,225.00) and intentionally charging his personal gasoline expenses with Asperin Gasoline Station to the account of the municipality”.
The anti-graft court in a December 18, 2014 order exonerated Dumaluan reiterating the ancient principle that “no one shall be found guilty of crime except upon proof beyond reasonable doubt”.
The evidence presented by the prosecution, according to the court “is bereft of any proof” and is of the opinion that the prosecution failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt the guilt of Dumaluan.
A joint affidavit executed by three Sanggunian Bayan (SB) members – Telesforo Mejos, Cereno Hormachuelos and Dennis Hora and Municipal Treasurer Rena Guivencan and Budget Officer Catalino Sumaylo was made the basis for the filing of the graft case before the Office of the Ombudsman.
Allegations of political motivation and revenge surfaced during the hearing after Guivencan confirmed that Dumaluan filed an administrative and criminal case against her in 2004 but was dismissed by the Ombudsman.
Sumaylo also admitted that in 2004 Dumaluan assigned him to the public market prompting him to file a protest to the Civil Service Commission and was reinstated to his original position as Budget Officer.
Municipal Councilors Mejos, Hormachuelos and Hora were identified with the political opposition and were known to block programs of the Dumaluan administration.
Dumaluan filed a case against Hormachuelos for “taking advantage of government funds without appropriation and creating a barangay road leading to their property”.
According to Dumaluan’s counsel, Atty. Roland Inting in an exclusive interview with theÂ ChronicleÂ said that “the decision of the Sandiganbayan strongly indicates and suggests that this smacks of malicious prosecution based on fabricated evidence”.
The decision states that “this Court is not prepared to say that the testimonial and documentary evidence adduced precludes the possibility that the charge against Dumaluan was politically motivated and contrived”.
In the case of Guivencan, the court said that the evidence presented during the hearing is consistent with the “suggested probability” that the case was filed against Dumaluan in retaliation to the cases filed against her before the Ombudsman “albeit eventually dismissed”.
.Guivencan testified that she issued a check for the payment of gasoline on January 25, 2005 payable to Asperin Petron Service Center in the amount of Php33,829.82.
Upon review of the paid vouchers, Guivencan discovered that the gasoline purchases of Panglao was used on two private vehicles owned by Dumaluan which is not allowed since the Mayor was receiving his Â monthly RATA.
Guivencan talked to Sumaylo and some members of the SB and eventually signed a joint affidavit accusing Dumaluan of graft even as she admitted that she did not call the attention of the Mayor about the gasoline charges.
Sumaylo admitted that”he has no knowledge” of the credit line on fuel consumption of the gasoline station and the procedure to charging fuel consumption of municipal vehicles but testified that he knew that the plate numbers of the vehicles belong to Dumaluan “because it starts with letter “G” while plate numbers of government vehicles starts with letter “S”.
In his defense, Dumaluan denied the allegations stating that “he did not authorize the treasurer to pay for the gasoline” and told the court that his gasoline and diesel expenses are charged against his credit line with the Asperin Gasoline Station”.
Dumaluan presented an invoice in the amount of Php12,776.20 representing his personal gas and diesel consumption for the 1st quarter of 2005.
Upon learning about the graft case filed against him,Â Dumaluan also instructed the municipal accountant and treasurer, upon learning about the graft case filed against him, to suspend his RATA for October “to restore and restitute the erroneous billing”.
The former Mayor explained to the court that contrary to the allegations of Guivencan the check payment of his gasoline expenses was issued six days before he claimed his transportation allowance on January 31, 2005 while the official receipt was issued by Asperin on January 27, 2005.
According to Dumaluan, the gasoline purchases paid by the municipality covered the period January 2, 2005 to January 12, 2005
The court argued that if Dumaluan has the willingness to charge his personal gasoline expenses to the municipality and at the same collect his RATA at the end of every month, he could have done it for his succeeding months accountabilities with the gasoline station.
The court also ordered the lifting of the Hold Departure Order and the cash bond returned to Dumaluan.
The decision was penned by Roland B. Jurado, Chairperson, Fifth Division and concurred by Alexander G. Gesmundo, Associate Justice and Ma. Theresa Dolores C. Gomez-Estoesta, Associate Justice.Â (CMV)