A former Armed Forces chief was exonerated from graft charges after the prosecution failed to prove his guilt beyond reasonable doubt in the anomalous P53-millon refund to a New York-based corporation.
In its 13-page ruling, the Sandiganbayan acquitted General Diomedio Villanueva of graft and his P30,000 bail and hold departure order were lifted.
Villanueva was accused of graft over his supposed gross negligence as Philippine Postal Corporation (PPC) Postmaster General on the P53-million refund made by PPC to Philpost USA as representation of Terminal Dues paid for mail matters sent to the Royal Mail in the United Kingdowm.
The Sandiganbayan said Villanueva had good faith in approving the refund since he banked on the recommendation of his co-accused, former Assistant Postmaster General and General Manager for Finance Antonio Siapno, who remains at-large.
“Accused Villanueva, upon receipt of the request for refund from PhilPost USA, referred the matter to accused Siapno. Accused Villanueva did so believing that Siapno knew better than him as he was also the dutiful officer in charge of the corporation’s financial concerns,” the decision read.
“Accused Villanueva’s course of action shows that he was guided by good faith in performing his duties as Postmaster General, designating and seeking the opinion of his subordinates on matters which he is not particularly an expert of,” it added.
The Sandiganbayan said Villanueva’s reliance on the recommendation of Siapno is not considered as gross inexcusable negligence. It noted the former military official even demanded the return of the amount after the findings of the Commission on Audit on the transaction in 2004.
Division chairperson Associate Justice Efren dela Cruz penned the decision, with the concurrence of Associate Justices Geraldine Faith Econg and Edgardo Caldona.