Sandiganbayan junks ex-DAR usec's bid for immediate dismissal of graft case

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 16) — The Sandiganbayan did not allow former Agrarian Reform Undersecretary Narciso Nieto to seek the immediate dismissal of charges against him over the alleged misuse of former senator Gregorio ‘Gringo’ Honasan’s Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).

In a decision dated Nov. 14, the anti-graft court’s 7th division denied Nieto’s motion for leave to file a demurrer to evidence, which essentially is a plea to have a case dismissed on the ground that the prosecution’s case is weak.

“It appears that accused Nieto is already delving into the merits of the charges when only the admissibility of prosecution’s evidence has been considered in the resolution of the formal offer,” the court said.

Nieto is facing graft and malversation charges over the diversion of ₱20 million of Honasan’s PDAF for vermicomposting projects in Isabela that turned out to be non-existent.

The money was supposedly funneled through the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) and Workphil Foundation Inc.

In his bid to file a demurrer to evidence, Nieto argued that there is no sufficient evidence to show he conspired with Workphil.

He argued that he merely signed a memorandum of agreement (MOA) for the projects as representative of former DAR chief Virgilio delos Reyes, but the Sandiganbayan was not convinced.

"Accused Nieto did not even attempt to discuss why, upon their admissibility, such evidence is not sufficient to prove the elements of the charges," the court said. "Instead, accused Nieto was more concerned with debunking the theory of conspiracy."

The court directed Nieto to begin the presentation of his defense on Nov. 28.