MANILA, Philippines — The Sandiganbayan has upheld its earlier ruling to proceed with the trial of graft and malversation charges filed against Mayor Edgar Rama of Poro, Cebu in connection with his alleged involvement in the 2004 fertilizer fund scam.
The anti-graft court’s Sixth Division said Rama and his four co-accused failed to present any new valid argument to warrant the reversal of the denial of their appeal.
“The appeal was bereft of merit and must be denied,” the Sixth Division said in a new ruling promulgated on Feb. 17.
The Sandiganbayan set the resumption of the trial on April 14 and 15, and every Wednesday and Thursday thereof.
The anti-graft court said Rama and his co-accused – former municipal councilors William Surbano, Gorgonia Gonzales, Sergio Zurita and Nilo Gorgonio – were expected to present their counter-evidence.
In their appeal, the accused insisted that the cases against them must be dismissed based on a Supreme Court decision that junked the similar charges filed against their two other co-respondents – North Cotabato Gov. Nancy Catamco and her former husband Pompey Perez.
The high tribunal said the cases against Catamco and Perez must be dismissed due to violation by the Office of the Ombudsman of their Constitutional right to a speedy disposition of the cases.
The anti-graft court said that Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta categorically clarified that the dismissal order only pertained to the cases filed against Catamco and Perez, and not to the other respondents.
The Sixth Division said the ombudsman acted promptly on the complaint filed against Rama and his co-accused before filing the appropriate cases in court.
The cases stemmed from the P5-million fertilizer supply contract that the Poro municipal government awarded to the Perzebros Company owned by Catamco and Perez in April 2004.