Former DPWH Bicol RD found guilty of graft

MANILA (Bicol Standard) – The Seventh Division of the Sandiganbayan has found Eleno Uttoh Colinares Jr., former Regional Director of the Department of Public Works and High ways (DPWH) Regional Office No. V guilty beyond reasonable doubt of violating Section 3(h) of Republic Act No. 3019 (Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act).

In its Decision promulgated on November 16, 2018, Colinares was sentenced to suffer an indeterminate penalty of imprisonment for a period of six years and one month to eight years with perpetual disqualification from public office.

The same Decision quotes the Amended Information, which reads: "That on or about January 17, 2001, or sometime prior or subse quent thereto, in Legazpi City, Province of Albay, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above named accused, a public officer, being then the Regional Director of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), Regional Office No. V, while in the performance of his duties and taking advantage of his position and committing the offense in relation to his office, did then and there, willfully, unlawfully and criminally acquire and obtain a pecuniary interest in a business, contract or transaction in which he intervened or took part in his official ca pacity, by entering, in behalf of the DPWH, Regional Office No. V, into a Fully Maintained Equipment Lease Contract dated Janu ary 17,2001, with a certain ELVIN C. BAUTISTA of Zamboanga City, whereby the DPWH leased from said ELVIN C. BAUTISTA a motor vehicle described as Pajero Intercooler Turbo, model 1995 with Plate No. UEY-937, and thereafter, signing and approving the corresponding vouchers and checks authorizing the release of the total amount of Php 362,372.72 as rental payments of the said ve hicle; and later depositing one of the checks he signed and ap proved, LBP Check 0001028074 dated June 5,2001, in the amount of Phpl34,836.36, payable to the said ELVIN C. BAUTISTA, to his personal account with Metrobank under Account No. 31380588, when in fact, ELVIN C. BAUTISTA is a mere dummy, and the beneficial owner of the said leased vehicle is actually himself, to the damage and prejudice of the government and the public interest.”

“Clearly, accused Colinares Jr. is a party to both contracts of lease more specifically to the second contract where his direct financial and pecuniary interest were made more obvious,” the ruling reads.

“From the evidence of the prosecution, it is very evident that accused took part in his official capacity in connection with such interest, for accused Colinares Jr. did not only indorse the questioned lease contract but approved it and signed the same in his capacity as Regional Director,” the anti-graft court said.

“Colinares Jr. is undoubtedly an approving authority to the 2nd Fully Mantained Equipment Contract. Without his approval and signature, there is no Lease Contract to speak of nor will there be the issuance of Disbursement Vouchers for the payment of the rentals. These documents were signed by accused Colinares, Jr. thus readily showing his actual intervention to the transaction which is the lease of his service vehicle. Clearly, the 2nd Fully Maintained Equipment Lease Contract was perfected with the indispensable participation and intervention of accused Colinares Jr. Thusly, it is the perfect "actual intervention" that is contemplated by law that gives rise to his liability as a public officer.”

It continues: “Taking into consideration our observations above, this Court has no recourse but to find the prosecution's case far stronger than that of the defense especially so, that even the documentary evidence offered by accused Colinares Jr. were not admitted, which makes his case even weaker. Time and again the High Court said: "When the prosecution has succeeded in discharging the burden of proof by presenting evidence sufficient to convince the court of the truth of the allegations in the Information, or has established a prima facie case against the accused, the burden of evidence shifts to the ac cused making it incumbent upon him to adduce evidence in order to meet and nullify, if not overthrow, the prima facie evidence."

The Decision was signed by Associate Justice Georgina D. Hidalgo. Ma Theresa Dolores C. Gomez-Estoesta, Associate Justice, Chairperson, and Zaldy V. Trespeses, Associate Justice concurred.