The Sandiganbayan Second Division dismissed the criminal case for graft filed against former Anda Mayor Angelina “Inday” B. Simacio for the failure of the prosecution to prove that the contract for the construction of the Anda Multi-purpose Center was grossly disadvantageous to the government.
Simacio, through her counsel, Aleck Francis T. Lim convinced the graft court that the “prosecution did not adequately prove its conclusion of excessiveness of the subject contract.”
The two-term Anda mayor was accused in a criminal complaint on March 21, 2018, for entering into a contract on behalf of the municipality of Anda with A.S.O. Construction approved and executed on April 12, 2013, in the amount of P2,498,923.50 which was allegedly 57.58% above the Commission on Audit (COA) cost evaluation.
The COA evaluation was P1,744,406.14 or an overpriced cost of P754,517.36 that included excessive labor costs and an overestimated quantity of reinforcing steel bars among others.
Pleading “not guilty” during her arraignment, the plaintiff presented four witnesses to buttress their claim that Simacio violated section 3(g) of Republic Act (RA) No. 3019, as amended known as the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
Almira G. Bastes, COA State Auditor III, Rickie Deo V. Dalida, COA Technical Audit Specialist II, Emerita C. Cimeni, COA State Auditor IV and Christopher Y. Ursal, Chief, COA Technical Audit Specialist all testified that there were irregularities surrounding the construction of the multi-purpose building.
In response, Simacio filed a demurrer to evidence to challenge the sufficiency of the evidence of the plaintiff to sustain a verdict of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
Demurrer to evidence is a motion to dismiss filed by the defendant after the plaintiff has rested his/her case on the ground of insufficiency of evidence.
The graft court agreed with the accused counsel that evidence against Simacio “fell short of presenting competent evidence to sustain an indictment.”
According to the 21-page resolution promulgated on January 8, 2020, the Sandiganbayan found that there was no actual canvass of prices for labor costs to determine if the price is excessive as required by the COA and Supreme Court jurisprudence.
The Witness of the plaintiff admitted that there is no written standard fixing the labor cost to 30% of the total material cost and is merely based on experience and finished projects.
On the issue of overestimated quantities of reinforcing steel bars, the graft court
said that “even if there was indeed overestimation, the same did not automatically render the contract grossly and manifestly disadvantageous to the government.”
The graft court acknowledged the fact that the construction of the multi-purpose building was completed as evidenced by the Acceptance and Inspection Reports issued by the LGU of Anda.
Witnesses of the plaintiff also admitted that they had no knowledge if the excess reinforcing steel bars were actually used or not.
The Hold Departure Order (HDO) against Simacio was lifted and the cash bond released.
Simacio served as Anda mayor for six years 1997-2000 and 2010-2013) but lost to Metodio Amper in the May 2019 elections by a slim margin of 229 votes.
The resolution was penned by Sandiganbayan Second Division Associate justice Lorifel Lacap Pahimna and concurred by Chairperson Associate Justice Oscar C. Herrera, Jr. and Associate Justice Michael Frederick L. Musngi. (Chito M. Visarra)