by Allan Yves Briones
The Sandiganbayan 5th Division denied the dismissal bid of Arlene and Romualdo Sunga, proprietors of Five Rings Security, in a graft case from 1996.
In their motion to dismiss filed last August 22, the Sungas argued the anti-graft court has already lost jurisdiction over their case by granting the demurrers to evidence of their co-accused.
The cases against their co-accused, former National Park Development Committee (NPDC) executive director Vispedencia de Guzman and Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) member Victor Avena, were dismissed by the Sandiganbayan on August 9, 2002.
At the time, the Sungas were held to be “at-large” and with pending arrest warrants. According to the court, It was only last August 13 when the Sungas personally appeared to post bond.
“The accused-movants are private individuals and not public officers over whom the Court can exercise jurisdiction. Thus, they cannot, on their own, commit any violation of Sec. 3 (e) of R.A. 3019,” the Sungas, through their lawyers, asserted.
Citing the Supreme Court cases of Villa vs. Sandiganbayan and People vs. Henry Go, the court ruled otherwise.
“Applying the rulings…the Court is of the view that accused-movants may still be held liable…even if the public officers with whom they were alleged to have conspired with, were already acquitted of the offense charged,” the court wrote in its resolution.
The Sungas, de Guzman and Avena were charged with graft in relation to the allegedly anomalous bidding for security services. De Guzman and Avena allegedly gave “unwarranted benefit” to the Sungas in awarding them the bid, against the recommendation of the BAC.
Division Chairperson wrote the resolution, concurred by Associate Justices Maria Theresa Mendoza-Arcega and Maryann Corpus-Mañalac.