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Ex-QC exec pleads not guilty to graft charge

FORMER Quezon City administrator Aldrin Cuña on Monday pleaded not guilty to the graft charge before the Sandiganbayan's Third Division for allegedly causing — «in conspiracy with» former QC mayor Herbert Bautista — undue injury to the government in the amount of about P25.3 million.

Cuña was arraigned on Monday morning. Meanwhile, the court scheduled Bautista's arraignment on Jan. 19, 2024.

In the charge sheet, the Office of the Ombudsman alleged that on June 27, 2019, or sometime before or after that day, Bautista and Cuña, «in conspiracy with one another,» caused undue injury to the government in the said amount and «confer[red] unwarranted benefits and advantage on Cygnet Energy and Power Asia, Inc. (Cygnet) by facilitating and approving the release of public funds… as full payment for the implementation of „a project (Supply and Installation of Solar Power System and Waterproofing Works for Civic Center Building F).

The Ombudsman alleged that Cuña issued an undated certificate of acceptance and that Bautista signed Box C of a disbursement voucher (DV) dated June 27, 2019.

Furthermore, the Ombudsman alleged that Cygnet “was not entitled to said amount because it failed to apply for and secure a Net Metering System from Meralco...»

In a June 7, 2023 resolution, the anti-graft court denied Bautista's motion to quash the charge sheet.

The resolution stated, among others, that he «maintains that, although he allegedly signed the subject DV and approved the payment of P25,342,359.25 to Cygnet, this does not automatically imply that he already acted with clear, notorious, or plain inclination or predilection to favor Cygnet over other entities.»

In ruling on Bautista's motion to quash the charge sheet, the court said that the test was whether the crime was sufficiently described «as to appraise the accused, with reasonable certainty, of the offense charged.» The court found the charge sheet sufficient.

Moreover, the court said that the issues that Bautista had raised could not be considered in weighing the sufficiency of the charge sheet «as these mostly refer to matters extrinsic or evidence aliunde. These focused on factual allegations that would require the