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THINK TALK: Graft Court Clears Senior MinDA Official

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MATALAM, North Cotabato (MindaNews / 2 November) – The Sandiganbayan Sixth Division acquitted of graft charges Charlita Andales Escaño, director of the Finance and Administrative Services Department of the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA).

In a 26-page decision dated October 26, 2022, the anti-graft court said prosecution failed to prove the guilt of Director Charlita Escaño beyond reasonable doubt.

The case stemmed from a seminar conducted by the Philippine Institute of Civil Engineers (PICE), Davao chapter on March 16 this year at the Ritz Garden Hotel in Davao City where five civil engineers of MinDA registered and paid P6,000 each from government funds. For some reasons, Engr. Buhat, one of the five MinDA engineers, failed to attend the said seminar. Director Charlita Escaño found this an opportune time to allow her husband to participate in the seminar after a slot was made available due to the failure of Engr. Buhat to attend.

The prosecution claimed that Dir. Escaño knew beforehand that Engr. Buhat cannot attend the seminar so she made a way for her husband to benefit from Engr. Buhat’s absence. The court disagreed saying, “She did not take advantage of Engr. Buhat’s absence to allow her husband to attend the seminar using the fees paid for by MinDA. She had made it clear from PICE-Davao that her husband was not an employee of MinDA and, therefore, not a replacement of Engr. Buhat.”

“There was no unwarranted benefit, advantage, or preference extended to the husband of the accused. As a matter of fact, Engr. Alan Escaño paid for his registration fee, although belatedly, after being sent a demand letter by PICE-Davao,” the court added.

The court further said that “the undue injury sustained by MinDA in the form of wasted registration fee for Engr. Buhat was not caused by the accused. Engr. Buhat’s negligence was the main reason for the wastage of the registration fee for him.”

“The totality of the facts and circumstances demonstrate that the accused is entitled to acquittal as a matter of course,” the court further said in a decision penned by Associate Justice Karl B. Miranda with the concurrence of the Division Chairperson Sarah Jane T. Fernandez and Associate Justice Kevin Narce B. Vivero.

With the acquittal, the court ordered the release of the P30,000 cash bond as well as the hold departure order issued against the senior MinDA official. (source: Alan Dominic Bondoc).

(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Maugan P. Mosaid holds a doctorate degree in rural development. He is a planning consultant and teaches Statistics and Methods of Research in the graduate school. He can be contacted at mauganmosaid6@gmail.com.)

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