THE Sandiganbayan has cleared a former Davao City agriculture official of graft charges in relation to the anomalous acquisition of P4.89 million worth of liquid fertilizer without public bidding.

In a 13-page ruling, the court said the prosecution failed to prove the guilt beyond reasonable doubt of former Department of Agriculture-Davao City Administrator Godofredo Ramos in awarding the P4.89 million fertilizer contract to RCS Trading.

“The prosecution’s theory is that accused Ramos acted in conspiracy with accused [Regional Executive Director Roger] Chio [of DA Davao City] and accused [Reynato] Sarmiento [of RCS Trading], but no proof was offered to show the alleged conspiracy. It was not shown that the accused had conspired with one another to benefit from the procurement,” the order reads.

“It has been consistently held that conspiracy must always be proven and if it cannot be established by direct evidence, the totality of evidence must be strong enough to show a community of criminal design,” it added.

The court said that while the contract was irregularly awarded to the said firm due to the absence of necessary requirements, it does not always constitute manifest partiality, evident bad faith, or gross inexcusable negligence which is an essential element of graft.

It said there was also a failure on the part of the prosecution to back up its claim that RCS Trading was not an exclusive distributor of the said fertilizer and that another distributor, identified as Jozeth Trading, exists.

“The prosecution failed to prove this allegation as it only offered a sworn statement/certification to try to prove this fact. The prosecution could have offered more convincing evidence that other distributors offered the same, if not a similar product,” it said.

“The bare signatures of accused Ramos in the BAC. Resolution and in the Notice to Bidder for Sealed Canvassing are insufficient for a conviction. Wherefore, for the failure of the prosecution to prove the guilt of the accused beyond reasonable doubt, Godofredo Ramos is hereby acquitted of violation of Sec. 3 (e) of Republic Act 3019. No civil liability is hereby adjudged,” it added.

Subsequent to the decision of the anti-graft court, the hold departure order against Ramos will be lifted while the bail he deposited will also be released back to him. (SunStar Philippines)