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One down! Echiverri wins first graft case

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Former Caloocan City Mayor Enrico “Recom” Echiverri secured his first victory from a string of corruption charges filed against him before the Sandiganbayan.

The anti-graft court acquitted Echiverri of graft and falsification of documents cases in connection with the P8-million drainage project he approved when he was still in office.

Also acquitted were former city accountant Edna Centeno and city budget officer Jesusa Garcia who were charged with count each of graft and falsification of public documents.

The charges stemmed from a road improvement and drainage project in Barangay 178 in Caloocan City in 2011 which Echiverri allegedly awarded without prior authorization from the city council.

Echiverri argued that the Commission on Audit (COA) cleared the disbursements for the projects in question which the Sandiganbayan agreed with.

“The COA itself conceded that there was no violation of the procurement laws after the Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) observed the strict legal process before the project was recommended for approval by the accused mayor,” said Associate Justice Edgardo Caldona in his 40-page decision, with concurrences from Associate Justices Efren De la Cruz and Geraldine Faith Econg.

The justices noted that the city council “did not disown the disbursement when they had every opportunity to exclude it from ratification.”

The graft aspect, which was causing undue injury to the government, was also not proven, according to the Sandiganbayan.

“After its completion, the city government undeniably derived benefits therefrom up to the present. No less than prosecution witness Esperanza Martinez admitted that the City of Caloocan continues to benefit from the omnibus term loan up to the year 2016,” the court said.

Despite acquittal, Echiverri is still facing 43 other sets of corruption cases mostly on road projects.