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Sandiganbayan: Chavit’s affidavit in P81M graft case vs ex-Narvacan mayors valid

THE Sandiganbayan has overruled objections raised by former Narvacan, Ilocos Sur mayors Edgardo and Zuriel Zaragoza to the admission of affidavits executed by former Ilocos Sur Governor Luis “Chavit” Singson as part of the prosecution’s exhibits relative to two counts of graft charges filed against them.

The anti-graft court’s Second Division swept aside the defendant’s argument that Singson’s complaint affidavit and joint reply affidavit are inadmissible since both are not based on his knowledge but were culled from narrations relayed to him.

Singson’s affidavits accused the Zaragozas of misuse and questionable withdrawal of tobacco excise tax funds totaling P81 million that were supposed to fund projects for the municipality’s tobacco farmers.

“While Singson noted that it came to his knowledge that alleged acts of misuse and misappropriation were being committed, he likewise testified that he verified the same through the use of official and public documents which he submitted to the Ombudsman.

Therefore, the contents of his (affidavit) cannot be said to be hearsay to render in inadmissible as evidence,” the Sandiganbayan declared.

The court added that even anonymous complaints can trigger an investigation by the Office of the Ombudsman where allegations can withstand verification of leads, retrieval of documents, identification of witnesses, and taking statements of other resource persons.

Likewise, it underscored the fact that the charges were not solely based on Singson’s affidavits but were supported by a proper case build-up and validation of records.

“Additionally, Singson took the witness stand in the course of the trial and was subjected to extensive cross-examination by all of the accused,” the court pointed out.

Also struck down were the defense opposition to the admission into the case records of the affidavit of defendant-turned-state witness Constante Cabitac, former president of the Federation of Farmers of Narvacan, Ilocos Sur, for supposedly being self-serving and riddled with inconsistencies.

“This Court has previously ruled that this testimony shows first-hand knowledge and direct participation in the alleged misappropriation of funds since