The Sandiganbayan has decided to proceed with the trial for graft charges filed against Pangasinan Rep. Amado Espino and several individuals after it found sufficient evidence to sustain their indictment for their alleged involvement in illegal mining of black sand along Lingayen Gulf.
In a 20-page decision dated Jan. 28, a copy of which was released only recently, the court’s Sixth Division through Associate Justice Kevin Narce Vivero resolved to continue the trial of the graft cases against Espino.
The court said it found the prosecution to have satisfactorily established sufficient basis to prove the conspiracy between public officials Espino, Rafael Baraan and Alvin Bigay and accused private individual Cesar Detera, Lolita Bolayog and Edwin Alcazar for alleged illegal mining of magnetite and mineral extraction in Barangay Sabangan, Pangasinan.
This came after the anti-graft court denied the joint demurrer to evidence filed by accused Detera, Bolayog and Alcazar for lack of merit. A petition for demurer to evidence means a plea to the court to declare as insufficient the evidence submitted by the prosecution.
The Sandiganbayan said there exists sufficient evidence to convict Espino and his co-accused for violation of Section 3(e) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
“The prosecution’s evidence is prima facie sufficient to prove the criminal charges, subject to the defense that may be presented in the course of a full-blown trial,” the court said, adding that “there appears to be prima facie showing of conspiracy” with respect to accused Espino and the five other co-accused.
In 2016, the Ombudsman filed the charges against Espino and former provincial administrator Baraan for allegedly unlawfully allowing illegal black sand mining in Pangasinan through the issuance of a small-scale mining permit to Alexandra Mining and Oil Ventures Inc. on June 29, 2011 when Espino was the provincial governor.
Alexandra Mining officials Detera, Alcazar, Bolayog, Denise Ann Sia Kho Po, Annlyn Detera, Cynthia Camara, Glenn Subia and Emiliano Buenavista were included as private respondents.
In a separate graft case, Espino, Baraan, and then Provincial Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Officer Bigay were named defendants, together with Xypher Builders Inc. directors Michael Ramirez, Avery Pujol, Camara and Bolayog.
“In the instant [case], the prosecution satisfactorily established, at least by prima facie evidence, conspiracy by and between accused public officials Amado Espino, Rafael Baraan and Alvin Bigay and accused private individuals Cesar Detera, Lolita Bolayog and Edwin Alcazar,” the Sandiganbayan said.
The court noted that “the overt acts of the said accused tend to point to a joint purpose and design, concerted action and community of interest in conducting a soil remediation and/or magnetite and mineral extraction activities.”