Former AFP head Villanueva acquitted in PhilPost graft case

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THE Sandiganbayan acquitted former Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief Diomedio P. Villanueva of graft charges for prosecution’s failure to prove his role in anomalous transactions worth P53 million. He is also free of civil liabilities.

In the anti-graft court’s decision released on Friday, the Sandiganbayan said “(F)or failure of the prosecution to prove the guilt of the accused beyond reasonable doubt, accused Diomedio Villanueva is hereby acquitted.”

“Considering the absence of fact from which civil liability may arise, no civil liability is adjudged against accused Villanueva,” the decision, signed by Associate Justice Efren N. De la Cruz, added.

Mr. Villanueva was accused for gross negligence in approving a $1,031,936.04 (P53 million) refund to Philpost USA when he sat as Philippine Postal Corp. (PPC) Postmaster General and CEO in 2003. The refund was supposed to cover terminal dues paid by PhilPost USA to PPC for mail dispatched to the United Kingdom Postal Administration.

The recommendation was made by PPC Assistant Postmaster-General Antonio R. Siapno, whom Mr. Villanueva sought advice from. Mr. Siapno is still at large.

The Sandiganbayan decision stated that Mr. Villanueva acted in good faith when approving the refund and there were no corrupt motivations behind it.

“(T)here was no showing that accused Villanueva stood to gain anything should a refund be effected. Similarly, bad faith cannot be ascribed to his actions as the records are wanting that he was motivated by a dishonest purpose or ill will in seeking Siapno’s recommendation and eventually, in approving the refund,”” the decision said.

“Mistakes committed by a public officer are not actionable absent any clear showing that they were motivated by malice or gross negligence amounting to bad faith,” the Sandiganbayan also noted.

The hold departure order issued against the former AFP Chief was lifted by the anti-graft court and it directed the release of his bail bond. — Gillian M. Cortez