Sandigan junks ex-DBM official’s appeal

Former Budget Undersecretary Mario Relampagos has failed to reverse Sandiganbayan’s February ruling, turning down his demurrer to evidence in three graft and three malversation charges related to the pork barrel scam.

The anti-graft court’s Seventh Division, in a recent eight-page resolution, denied the ex-DBM official’s motion for reconsideration for lack of merit and highlighted that he is still a fugitive and so not entitled to such legal remedy.

The Sandiganbayan previously stated that it could not proceed with the accused’s motion for reconsideration of his demurrer of evidence since he is still a fugitive from justice.

A demurrer to evidence can be filed only with the court’s permission and only after the prosecution has finished presenting its evidence on the criminal charges. If a demurrer is filed without the court’s permission and is denied, the accused effectively waives the right to present evidence.

Relampagos faces multiple charges as a co-accused of former Muntinlupa City lawmaker and current mayor Ruffy Biazon in connection with the alleged irregular disbursement of P3 million from the congressman’s Priority Development Assistance Fund in 2007.

He left for the United States in December 2017 and has not returned to the Philippines since then.

“Denying the demurrer to evidence violates neither an accused’s right to be presumed innocent nor his right to a speedy disposition of his case. If there is anyone whose action impacts on his right to be presumed innocent, it is accused Relampagos himself when he jumped bail,” the Sandiganbayan said in response to Relampagos’ argument that a fugitive from justice may not be denied the right to a demurrer.

Relampagos maintained that dismissing his demurrer to evidence contradicts his constitutional right to be assumed innocent and fast disposal of the case.

The court ruled that Relampagos could not claim that merely because the Fourth Division accepted his initial motion, the Seventh Division overseeing the case should also grant his demurrer to evidence.

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